HALLIE: Last week I went to see "Julie and Julia," which I would have gone to see even if it weren’t my sister Nora’s movie. It was lovely and sweet—and Meryl Streep IS Julia Child.
Which led me to drag out my copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”--my copy is a 1967 edition, 15th printing, and is inscribed from friends of my parents on May 11, 1969. A wedding present.
My husband and I used to meet every few months with friends and, in advance, come up with a menu that involved each guest making a single dish that took as long as a normal single meal to prepare. Needless to say, lots of our recipes came from Julia. It's easy to see which, because those pages are warped and stained and the margins are scribbled in.
All in all, I made it through about 34 recipes--nowhere near Julie Powell's record setting mastery of all 524. But still.
Standouts were Onion soup (start by roasting bones for broth). Soup au Pistou (an incredible concoction made with zucchini and fresh peas, cooked with lots of garlic and run through a hand mill). Duck a l'Orange and Creme Caramel. And the extraordinary and extraordinarily expensive Tournedos Rossini (filet mignon, home cooked artichoke hearts, truffles, a slab of foie gras, and a Madeira sauce--Oh, baby!) Every recipe had a meltdown moment…as when the duck flew off teh platter on the way to the table or when I renverséd the crème caramel all over the kitchen counter.
Still, I can’t remember a single dish that failed, though Lobster Thermidor did not seem worth the trouble when compared to how delicious a plain old boiled lobster with drawn butter can be.
Have you cooked Julia or are your culinary triumphs more of the Galloping Gourmet variety…or are we talking green been casserole with mushroom soup and canned onion rings?
RHYS: I too used to belong to a supper club for which we had to prepare one dish. And Tournedos Rossini was the first reeeely expensive dish I ordered as an adult. And it was worth it! We used to entertain a lot and I was always trying out new recipes for guests (much to John's horror when I hadn't tested them first) My only spectacular failure was a turbon of sole, stuffed with shrimp and crab. When I turned it out, it collapsed into a nasty pink mess. I had to make a hasty sauce to cover it!
I believe that Julia herself once threw a duck across the kitchen on the way to the table, didn't she? That was why she was so popular--she was so human and really enjoyed every part of the cooking and the eating. I once had an important meeting with the head of my publishing house and the head of marketing back in the days when I wrote YA books. Julia Child and husband were at the next table and I sat almost touching her. All my table-mates wanted to know was what she was eating next. I remember she started with a dozen oysters. And she never shrank from using the butter. My kind of lady!
HALLIE: Oh, gosh, elbow to elbow! I'm jealous. My friend, chef Lora Brody, actually COOKED for Julia once. I can only imagine how nerve wracking that would have been.
JAN: I remember making a stuffed roast after watching a Julia Child episode. It was very complicated, delicious, but very rich. Although I love to cook, I usually avoid recipes that involve too many steps or too many ingredients I have to go to special stores to find.
Tonight I'm throwing a dinner party and all the recipes center around the herbs in my garden, starting with a melon sald with cilantro and fresh mint.
I spotted Julia Childs once, though, at a WGBH Wine tasting fundraiser. It was very exciting. I think she waved.
HALLIE: I also have a garden full of fresh herbs like now, and in honor of same have become an expert at making mojitos.
HANK: Oh, I've made that onion soup. Fantastic. But you know what I learned from her? Very important. Before you start a recipe, read the whole thing, and sort of--imagine how it's going to work and what you need to do in advance. There's nothing like making, say, lasagne, and then getting to the part of the recipe where it says: "add marinara sauce, see p. 233." Ahhh....
And my copy is newer, the 23rd printing from March, 1973. (The onion soup page is a crinkly mess! So is the page for souffle a la vanille.) And I just reread the first line of the foreward: "This is a book for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets ,waitlines, time schedules..."
HALLIE: Culinary triumphs? Please...dish!