Adventures in Gluten (and Sugar) Freedom from a southern blogger chick!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dear Julia. Happy Birthday to you.

Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of my culinary idol, Julia Child.

Perhaps my favorite quote describes my relationship with Julia -- I found it on Brainy Quotes.

Instead of drooling, oohing, etc., I want to share something I wrote for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune food section in 2004 -- shortly after Julia died, and as a hurricane was tearing into the area. I wrote this before Julia and Julia -- and I wrote it for my Julia.

This explains my love of Julia Child, and why today I celebrate her here, on Twitter, and in my life.

Merci Beaucoup, Julia.  Toujours...bon appetite!

Thanks for inspiration and sense of humor, Julia

Published: Wednesday, August 25, 2004 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 25, 2004 at 12:00 a.m.
Julia Child shaped my life.
When news of her death Aug. 13 flashed across my television screen, I felt like I'd lost a dear, life-long friend.
I discovered "The French Chef" as a sixth-grader in 1968, and for more than 35 years, I have been a faithful Julia-phile. Her talent, style and humor got me interested in cooking and food, an avocation I treasure.
Because of Julia Child, I studied French in high school and college. After becoming a journalist, reading her clever cookbooks and articles made me want to write about food and cooking.
And it all started with a little red cookbook.
My love of Julia Child and "The French Chef" marked me as an oddity among my friends in Waycross, Ga. When my friends were talking about "Here Come The Brides" and teen idol Bobby Sherman, I couldn't get enough of a Sunday afternoon PBS show starring a tall, gangly woman with a funny accent. At 4 p.m. every Sunday, before leaving for youth choir at the First Baptist Church, I would hunker down in my bedroom, glued to the scratchy black-and-white picture on my second-hand television set. Every week, I'd painstakingly recorded the recipes Julia prepared, then rave about them to my friends, who thought french fries were French cuisine.
My parents didn't really understand my fascination with the show or its host. "You were far ahead of me and your mother when it came to cooking," my 80-year-old daddy told me in a recent phone conversation. "I don't know what got you interested in Julia Child, but I do remember you got us interested in her, not the other way around."
They were good sports about it all the same. When I announced I wanted to prepare Gratin de Pommes de Terre Dauphinois, my mother fretted over the calories while my daddy took me to the Winn-Dixie for supplies. They helped me peel the potatoes, crush the whole garlic clove (I'd only used garlic salt before that!) and layer it all in the casserole. "These are just scalloped potatoes," Daddy said when we sampled them with our Sunday roast. I didn't care. I was a French chef!
When my 12th birthday rolled around in February 1969, my wish list was Julia-inspired: I wanted a wire whisk, a potato peeler and my own Teflon-coated saucepan. Oh, and a can of Beefaroni. After all, wasn't Chef Boyardee a chef, too?
When the day rolled around, though, I got an unexpected treasure.
Inside the last box I opened was a copy of "The French Chef Cookbook" by Julia Child, a hardback copy at that. I still remember my absolute delight. I took the book to school that day, then toted it around for weeks, showing it to anyone who'd look at it.
The first recipe I tried was Crème Renversee au Caramel, molded caramel custard. I burned my finger when I touched the hot melted sugar that coated the pan, but the result was the most delicious food I'd ever tasted.
To this day, crème caramel, in all its incarnations, is my favorite dessert.
Julia's petite fours, made with her luscious genoise and dipped in creamy fondant (not iced with pink frosting), got me extra credit in ninth-grade French class. We fixed her coquilles St. Jacques when I was in a summer honors French class in 1973.
As I re-read my favorite cookbook while watching tributes to Julia, I realized how much I epitomized her goal of making French cooking accessible to any cook. "I wanted to show people if I could do it, any one could do it," I heard her say on more than one occasion.
What better proof than a 12-year-old girl with no cooking experience at all, experimenting with recipes she couldn't pronounce in a tiny, South Georgia kitchen on a Sunday afternoon? You were right, Julia.
If I could cook Gratin de Pommes de Terre Dauphinois, anyone could.
Merci beaucoup, Julia Child. You not only changed the culinary world, you changed MY world. We're all forever grateful.

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