I love to cook. My grandmother taught me how to cook. She thought boys should know how to sew on a button and how to cook. The first thing she taught me to prepare was a casserole she called her “Chi-nee” noodle dish. Easy to put together, I made it at least a hundred and fifty-three times. Though I no longer eat meat, canned peas, or Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, I still remember the recipe. Gramma’s banana bread was a favorite. She showed me, step by step, how she made it. What else is there to do with overripe bananas?
My interest in cooking continued into adulthood. As I became more experienced, I discovered the joy of experimentation and the wonder of new tastes and textures.
Julia Child entered my life in the late 60s. A born again francophile with an undergraduate degree in French, it was love at first sight. Julia visited my home, as she visited the homes of a multitude of adoring fans, for nearly ten years as The French Chef. In the 70s and 80s she arrived in different incarnations: Julia Child & Company, Julia Child & More Company, and Dinner at Julia’s.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking I and II are classics that can be read cover to cover. I bought both JC & Co. cookbooks, From Julia Child’s Kitchen, and others, the titles of which I no longer remember. I made pâté, Hollandaise sauce, soufflés, quiches, and quenelles. I loved replicating Julia’s recipes and processes. I enjoyed the pursuit of ingredients and tools. In the 70s, both ingredients and tools were difficult to come by. Few supermarket produce sections carried arugula and Williams Sonoma was hardly a household name.
My Life in France is a charming memoir of the life Julia and Paul Child shared in France and of Julia’s introduction to la cuisine française. Noel Riley Fitch’s Appetite for Life is an absorbing biography that explores the forces, events, and experiences that shaped the life of Julia Child making her the extraordinary woman she was.
When Julia Child died on Friday, August 13, 2004, I felt as if I had lost a family member. The following morning, The Los Angeles Times Calendar section carried a feature article by Times Staff Writer Elaine Woo. The article spoke lovingly of Julia as a “towering figure in the culinary world” who “woke Americans up to the pleasures of cooking.” The article concludes with a quotation that is quintessentially Julia: “To me, the kitchen has never stopped being a place just full of possibilities and pleasures.”
Possibilities and pleasures. The kitchen. The ingredients. What would Julia do?
Indeed. What would Julia do? I created a poster that reminds me of the possibilities and pleasures of my kitchen.