Julia Child had a profound impact on my culinary career and let me tell you how. I was living in Clemson, SC around 1981 and just getting into cooking and learning about wine on a more serious basis knowing that I wanted to soon open a restaurant. My first thoughts were to do a NY styled deli in Clemson. About the same time, I received a wok as a Christmas gift, with which I began to do some serious Chinese cooking. However, after several months, I was bored with wok cooking and really desired to find a more challenging cuisine, to do something more substantial. I enjoyed cooking, and always have. I found myself looking for cookbooks at the mall in Greenville when I came across Julia Child’s two volume set ofMastering the Art of French Cooking.
For a young fellow in his twenties, the price of $40 for the two books seemed high and I wrestled with buying them for a week or two. Finally, I threw caution to the wind and bought the books. I felt at times as I began poring over the books that I may have been reading in French, but I was really enjoying them. I didn’t understand everything, nor have all the equipment I needed. However, when I was ready, I put together my first dish, “Chicken Fricasee.” I didn’t have any enameled iron cookware and modern equipment, but I did have an electric skillet, which Julia said would work. It took me about 2-3 hours to prepare my first french dish. In the movie “Julie and Julia,” the lady from the publishing company tried her first recipe “Boeuf Bourguignon” from Julia’s hand-typed manuscript. Her expression, with closed eyes, as she tasted the dish, was heavenly and I am sure it matched my expression when I completed and tasted my first French cuisine, Chicken Fricasee, a la Julia Child. Wow, was I blown away. From that point on, I began to learn French cuisine.
My kitchen was soon filled with a Cuisinart food processor, enameled cast iron cookware, good knives, etc… Most of my income went into my scarce kitchen, but it was soon well equipped and I was on my way to enjoying and preparing wonderful cuisine. I didn’t know food could taste so good. Our family cooked the dish again last Sunday evening, for the first time in a while. It was still wonderful.
So thank you Julia Child for bringing wonderful French cuisine to America many years ago, thank you for pouring yourself into us and improving the dining scene in the U.S. We are all the better for it.