The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What we learned from Julia Child

cookingwithdenay's picture

What we learned from Julia Child

On August 7, 2009 the release of a new movie starting Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and Julie Powell (Amy Adams) opens in theaters nationwide. The movie was written and directed by Nora Ephron and is an adaptation of two bestselling memoirs: Powell's Julie & Julia and My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme. You can learn the plot by visiting the trailer and I won't bore you with that information. Over twenty seven years ago I had the honor of serving in the United States Navy and being stationed in Okinawa, Japan. It was a bitter sweet experience for a culinary obsessive compulsive cook like myself. Locating ingredients was a task and as a relatively new bride I was eager to prepare meals that were not only delicious but divine.

I have never really written about how I became so astute in the kitchen. I can say that I would not be the cook I am today were it not for a cookbook edited by Charlotte Turgeon titled The Creative Cooking Course. You must understand that during that time, military bases offered very little to choose from as far as ingredients go, so my now ex purchased three cookbooks so I could flex my culinary muscle; venture out into local markets and with the assistance of the Creative Cooking Course, a Betty Crocker Cookbook and one other that obviously was completely unimportant since I can no longer remember the title create culinary magic.

I bring this book up because it is through this book that I learned about food, food from all over the world. I cooked my way through this cookbook and I can tell you every recipe that worked and those that did not. Somewhere out there a budding novice is wondering how can I too become a great cook or baker? All I can share is that you must literally cook and bake your way into greatness. I think Nike said it best..."Just do it!" Julia Child once said, "never apologize." She was absolutely correct. Cook, cook, cook, bake, bake, bake and don't apologize. If someone does not like what you have prepared, fine...and as Jae would say, "keep it movin."

I had a copy of The French Chef years ago and found it quite boring, but recently I asked my daughter for a copy for Christmas. Now, over a half century old I can appreciate what Julia Child was trying to do and why. I too must encourage cooks and bakers to not settle, but rise up, grasp a good cookbook and cook, bake, "Just do it!"



xaipete's picture

I had a similar adventure in the late 1970s and early 1980s when I acquired one by one the Time-Life series called Foods of the World (I think that was the title). As I read each of the volumes, I experimented with different cuisines and learned a lot about different cultures and foods. I attribute those volumes to whatever culinary expertise I have achieved and to a great broadening of my taste buds. Over the years I have acquired a taste for most things except hazelnuts and walnuts, although lately I am starting to enjoy walnuts under certain circumstances.

Thanks for telling us about this upcoming movie.


PS One of my favorite cookbooks and DVD series is Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home.

pattycakes's picture

My mother began sending me the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbooks each month when I was in my early twenties. Each one was a wonder. Remember back in the seventies when everything was exotic? I cooked out of them, and I made things that I had never even heard of before. Since then I have traveled and tasted the real thing, but those books never let me down. Richard Olney was the head editor, and contributions were by people like Julia Child, James Beard, and Craig Claiborne. Olney was living in France at the time that he was recruited to head the series, and he was meticulous and fanatical in his demand for authenticity. He had only reluctantly accepted the task, and he did a marvelous job. They're still on my shelf, and although I'm always seduced by the new books with their great new methods and discoveries, I find myself returning to the Time Life cookbooks when I can't find things any other place. I mean, "Wife of Kit Carson's Turkey Chile?" Where did they come up with that? Ropa vieja, Royal potroast, tamales, gravlax, mancha mantel...

And I agree. Cook, cook, cook, bake, bake, bake. Make mistakes and learn from them. They teach you more than success. I still catch kitchen towels on fire during dinner parties or fill the house with smoke, but no one turns down an invitation to my table.


Reuben Morningchilde's picture
Reuben Morningchilde

I was lucky enough to learn cooking from my grandmothers (genetic and others) and only via the movie trailer came to learn about Julia Child.

But my, what an inspiration this woman is! I have so much fun currently reading her 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking', and even found a few new favourites there.

I'm so looking forward to the movie, thanks for bringing this up here!

drhowarddrfine's picture

I read the book a year or two ago and like it quite a bit. The movie apparently injects quite a bit of Julia into it but Julia Child does not make any appearance in the book. I do think it was a wonderful idea to do so and might make the movie that much more fun.

DonD's picture

I have been cooking as a hobby for over 30 years and being a book junkie, have accumulated quite a collection of cookbooks. The books that I treasure the most and go back to time and time again are those by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. Their instructions are always precise and accurate and the dishes always turned out the way they are supposed to. They give you more than recipes, they are truly teachers and have inspired us all in the art of fine eating and living. I would also rank Pierre Franey and Marcella Hazan high on my list.


cookingwithdenay's picture

I just wonder how many people in our lives are inspired by our culinary talents and never tell us?  I know we don't need to hear it, but every once and a while it sure is good to hear it!

Paddyscake's picture

The French Chef, Bon Appetite'

I can hear her voice as plain as day! Actually, you could give me anything to read and I can imagine her voice reading it. I know there are alot of folk out there, who can do the same.

She was the first "cooking show" I remember. Black and white many of you remember that? She was the Food TV channel to me, way back when. I'm not absolutely ancient, 55. I can remember before I moved to OR from CT, my now husband had never heard of the TV Food Network, 6 years ago. It wasn't offered by his cable TV company.  Hard to believe now, huh?

She was a great inspiration. I loved seeing Jack & Julia in concert, as they used to bill them for PBS, funny and educational! During that time PBS started presenting other chefs, Cooking with Caprial (OR), Justin Wilson (somewhere in the deep south), 2 Hot Tamales, (Mary Sue Feniger and ?) and Paul Prudhomme. What a line up, only presented by PBS.

Please be sure to support your local PBS. This is where inspirations start!



GraysonE's picture

Julia Child recipes, though they've always been good enough to warrant both attention and also study, are in a special amount of focus as a new movie just was released, called Julie and Julia, a film about the rise of Julia Child and a woman named Julie who decides to cook all the way through Julia Child's classic book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, with mixed results.  The film also details the support Julie and Julia have in their lives and endeavors by their respective partners.  There are legions of Julia Child recipes on the web, but it might be worth a payday loans worth to buy her books.


earthygirl's picture

okay, so I am dating myself.  I remember watching Julia on Tv instead of Capt'n Kangaroo.   I would just sit and watch her whenever she was on.  I remeber alsway getting a good giggle from her.  later on when I moved away from home, my mother presented me with several things to get me started on my own.  Nothing more precious than My 1966 copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and my 1965 copy of Larousse Gastronomique.   I still use them and love them.  I can honestly say that my love for cooking and baking came from Julia Child. 

Thank you Julia