It was the summer of 1973, and I was studying French for the summer at the Dekalb Honors Program, held ever summer back then at Clarkston High School. I loved DHP -- I went two summers in a row -- but this second summer was special.
It was the summer Julia went to class with me.
My French teacher, the delightful Madam Charbonnet, was the coolest teacher I'd ever encountered in a classroom. The first day she brought us Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream and said, "Describez en Francais." To this day I remember my flavor -- Pralines avec creme...still a big favorite today,
The highlight of the summer was preparing a French meal for the Dekalb County Board of Education. We practiced all the recipes, en Francais, sil vous plait, and our meal included:
Hiotres en coquille a la Rockefeller
Salade avec tomates en vinaigrette
Pain Francaise, a la Julia (I took my cookbook and we made baquettes)
and my favorite of all -- Coquilles St. Jacques
I'm pretty sure I'd never had scallops like those in the Coquilles St. Jacques (mine had mostly been done friend in a seafood platter) but I was hopelessly hooked. Somewhere in my cookbook collection, I have the recipe -- it wasn't Julia's but it was special. It was that summer I learned there is no spinach in Oysters Rockefeller, that bacon for quiche can burn really fast, that you shouldn't wash whole button mushtooms, and that gruyere cheese is better than Swiss. The fact that I was also working at a grocery store that summer meant I kept bringing home the makings for quiche especially. Oh and my poor Daddy, who really doesn't like cheese, well, he ate more quiche than he should have ever had to have, since I insisted on cooking the whole shebang a couple of times that summer.
The administrators oooh'd and awww'd over our food, and we all took bows. And we scarfed leftovers.
My memories of this cooking experience, inextricably tied to chere Julia, reminds me again of how prevalent she was in my life. Still is. After all, I'm proud to remember this story and share her recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
And I think fondly of Mrs. Charbonnet (I wish I knew where she, and my high school French teacher, Ms. Walters, were today. I'd like to thank them for shaping my teaching). for letting me be me. Foodie girl, 101, in 1973.
**This week's recipe is a classic from Provence: delicious and summery Coquilles St. Jacques à la Provençale (Scallops Gratineed with Wine, Garlic, and Herbs). Perfect as an appetizer or a main course.
Excerpted from Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Copyright © 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Oh yes, at the end of the class, she gave each of us a kitchen tool. Mine was a butter curler. I still have it. And I cherish it and use it still.