Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, Julia!

“Good results require that one take time and care. If one doesn’t use the freshest ingredients or read the whole recipe before starting, and if one rushes through the cooking, the result will be an inferior taste and texture—a gummy beef Wellington, say. But a careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life-changing experience.” –Julia Child, from My Life in France.

Anyone who truly loves food understands how a meal can be life-changing. When you take that first bite, and then close your eyes because the flavor is so exquisite you think you just might die from the pleasure.

It is that kind of pleasure Julia Child brought to the American kitchen through her landmark cookbooks and television shows. When people ask me who I admire, she is at the top of the list, second only to Mom. I not only look up to her because of her cooking and teaching skills. What I admire most about Julia is how she sought out her life’s calling and pursued her passion once she found it, and it didn’t matter that she was already 37 years old. I was just a few months away from that age when my first newspaper article was published and I was on my way to pursuing my life’s passion. I haven’t looked back since, even through the bumpy times, much like she experienced with the writing and publishing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (To the right is my Julia collection.)

I also admire the love Julia shared with her husband, Paul. He was her biggest supporter, always encouraging her to follow her passion. I feel so blessed that I, too, have found such a champion in my fiancé, Michael. Like Paul, he believes in my talent and encourages me to follow that passion 100-percent.

From a culinary standpoint, I have Julia to thank for every perfect roasted chicken that comes out of my oven. Her formula for the timing (45 minutes plus 7 minutes per pound) and the oven temperature (425 degrees for 15 minutes and then 350 degrees for the rest of the time) lead to a chicken that is beautifully browned and not over cooked. Of course, her instruction of rubbing the chicken with butter, and then basting every 10 minutes or so doesn’t hurt, either! (I found these directions in her book Julia's Kitchen Wisdom. The picture is from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, with my own notes in the margins.)

As you can see from this photo, I’ve also made her classic Boeuf Bourguignon. The picture also shows the notes I took during the process and my own personal changes I made, or planned to make the next time around. By the way, if you haven’t made this dish yet, it is sublime! Make it!

On the day Julia died, August 13, 2004, I roasted a chicken and I made her classic chocolate mousse for the first time.  

My favorite dish of Julia’s is perhaps one of the simplest—leek and potato soup. I’ve made it many, many times and this delicious, humble soup always fills me with a sense of comfort and love—what any good food should do.

Even the most casual Julia Child follower knows how the simple fish and butter dish of sole meuniere eaten in a restaurant on her first day in France was the beginning of Julia’s passion for food. She said of that meal at the end of My Life in France, “In all the years since that succulent meal, I have yet to lose the feelings of wonder and excitement that it inspired in me. I can still almost taste it. And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite—toujours bon appetit!"

Leek and Potato Soup
From Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child
(The Time magazine cover hangs in my kitchen.)

For about 2 quarts, serving 6

3 cups sliced leeks, white and tender green parts
3 cups peeled and roughly chopped “baking” potatoes
6 cups water (I use chicken broth.)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraiche, optional (I use heavy cream, which makes it a cream of leek and potato soup, according to the book.)

Bring ingredients to the boil in a 3-quart saucepan. Cover partially and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Correct seasoning. Serve as is, or puree in a blender or food processor, and/or top each portion with a dollop of the cream. (Or, once the vegetables are tender and the soup is pureed, add the heavy cream.)


  1. I love your writing!!

  2. Ah yes! Happy birthday to Julia and what a delicious soup!

  3. Linda, this is a wonderful tribute to the woman who changed so many of our kitchens. You write beautifully and it was a pleasure to visit with you.
    I'll be back often. I hope you have a wonderful evening. Blessings...Mary

  4. What a fun post to read! You really captured Julia's unique brand of enthusiasm, and love the photo of her and her husband in the tub! The soup sounds perfect for this early fall weather we're having---thanks!

  5. Thanks, Sue! I bet the soup would taste wonderful with some leeks fresh-picked from the garden.