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What's the deal with Julia Child


chef koo
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I was watching a re run of a special on Julia Child on PBS. They had alot of chefs offer their thoughts on her. After reading up on Julia and watcing as many youtube videos on her as I could, I'm still confused at how endearing so many people are towards her. People seem to hold her in the same reverance as mother Teresa. But I found her recipes and techniques no more or less interesting than any other chef. Am I missing something?

bork bork bork

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A matter of timing.

You had to be there.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I was watching a re run of a special on Julia Child on PBS. They had alot of chefs offer their thoughts on her. After reading up on Julia and watcing as many youtube videos on her as I could, I'm still confused at how endearing so many people are towards her. People seem to hold her in the same reverance as mother Teresa. But I found her recipes and techniques no more or less interesting than any other chef. Am I missing something?

I'm going to assume that you're not trolling.

Before Julia, Americans were eating Salisbury steak TV dinners, eating Velveeta cheese, and they thought "fancy pants gourmet French cuisine" was beyond their means and beyond their skills.

There's a damned good reason her kitchen is part of the Smithsonian collection -- she single-handedly wrenched this country away from TV dinners. She taught enough of us to cook that we have something of a food culture. Simply put, there wouldn't be an Alice Waters or a Thomas Keller without Julia Child.

Edited by ScoopKW (log)

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I'm getting that feeling. I've seen a few clip of "The French Chef" on youtube but the only show I've ever seen on TV with her was that one where she would have a guest chef on. I've seen her with Jacques Pepin alot as well.

@ScoopKW That's what I mean by "same reverance as mother Teresa". To even question why she's held with such high regard is sacrilege, and is met with the attitutde that you're either a dick looking to provokate or you're too dumb to understand and don't deserve to breath.

bork bork bork

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I guess it depends on what you were reading. If it was just cookbooks, the copyright on the early ones (MTAFC, etc) would have given you some historical reference. If you read the book My Life in France, it chronicles the journey she took in her culinary education as well as the struggles in getting the first book published. The comments about recipe testing that are included in the book show that people were not cooking like that at home because everything was processed and convenience foods were being heavily touted as THE way a modern person cooked. The memoir type books will help you put things in context.

So if you read those books and still had the question, that's why people would wonder if you were just trying to spice things up in the forums :wink:

ETA: correct typo

Edited by JeanneCake (log)
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. . . . But I found her recipes and techniques no more or less interesting than any other chef. Am I missing something?

I think her approachability, and her way way of making more complex cooking approachable were extremely important; she seemed to take would-be-rarified things out of the rarified realm. I only saw her once on TV, when I was a child (I wasn't born early enough to see the larger part of her TV work, and only got to watch TV at my grandparents' homes). It sure wasn't Sesame Street, but it held my attention to the end: I recall that there was some sort of moulded gelatine thing involved. Her appearance, delivery, and relaxed attitude when the unmoulded dish slumped, all combined to imply that I too, could do this, and you weren't an incompetent yob if you failed: these things happened.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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But I found her recipes and techniques no more or less interesting than any other chef. Am I missing something?

You are missing that "any other chef" of that quality was not on US TV at the time, and those techniques simply were not available to most Americans except via Julia Child. And while she may not have invented the chef-on-TV form, she is absolutely responsible for its current popularity -- PBS's long list of cooking shows past and present, not to mention Food Network et al, would not exist if she had not shown the way.

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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But I found her recipes and techniques no more or less interesting than any other chef. Am I missing something?

You are missing that "any other chef" of that quality was not on US TV at the time, and those techniques simply were not available to most Americans except via Julia Child. And while she may not have invented the chef-on-TV form, she is absolutely responsible for its current popularity -- PBS's long list of cooking shows past and present, not to mention Food Network et al, would not exist if she had not shown the way.

I think her approachability, and her way way of making more complex cooking approachable were extremely important; she seemed to take would-be-rarified things out of the rarified realm. ... Her appearance, delivery, and relaxed attitude when the unmoulded dish slumped, all combined to imply that I too, could do this, and you weren't an incompetent yob if you failed: these things happened.

One reason people whose culinary education began with her have such strong feelings is that she was a natural, brilliant teacher. It isn't just that she taught us so much--she did so in the most relaxed and unfussy way possible, and conveyed a complete conviction that we could do it too.

Despite the relaxed approach, her great respect for the importance of proper technique and culinary tradition always came through. That made a big impression on me at the time. Cooking was something you could take seriously, worthy of the time it took to do it correctly.

There's a damned good reason her kitchen is part of the Smithsonian collection -- she single-handedly wrenched this country away from TV dinners. She taught enough of us to cook that we have something of a food culture. Simply put, there wouldn't be an Alice Waters or a Thomas Keller without Julia Child.

ScoopKW's point is valid for other cultures too. Her influence wasn’t just introducing us to French food, it was opening our minds to new culinary traditions and respect for authenticity. It allowed others to do the same, as cookbook editors still love to point out. Here are just a few quotes from the jackets of some of the cookbooks on my shelves:

“Marcella Hazan has done for Italian food what Julia Child and Simone Beck did for French.”

"Madhur Jaffrey is the Julia Child of Indian cookery.”

“He [Rick Bayless] does for Mexican cooking what Julia Child did for French cooking.”


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I think my objection comes from an apparent complete lack of historical appreciation. In this, I am in complete agreement with the many others of this thread.

I believe with all my heart that whatever greatness we achieve in life tends to come from standing on the shoulders of those who come before us - we may see past their vista, but we begin by drawing from their strength and courage. In this vein, I count Ms. Child's contributions nothing short of visionary; she joins a pantheon of others I will always revere.

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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Julia Childs is the culinary equivalent of the "Big Bang" in the US.

She was the first to popularize fine dining at home.

She was the first to use TV (1963) to actually teach cooking (when Emeril was only 4 years old!)

She wrote serious cookbooks that actually contained reproducible recipes.

I grew up watching her cooking show, she was captivating, goofy, intelligent, and quirky...

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A post on eG Forums asking Society members about the importance of Julia Child is a bit like a participant on a gamer forum wondering what the big deal is with Pong, Donkey Kong, and Myst. What once was groundbreaking, complex, and compelling can appear, three decades later, as routine, simplistic and boring. History does that sometimes.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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A post on eG Forums asking Society members about the importance of Julia Child is a bit like a participant on a gamer forum wondering what the big deal is with Pong, Donkey Kong, and Myst. What once was groundbreaking, complex, and compelling can appear, three decades later, as routine, simplistic and boring. History does that sometimes.

What he said.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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As Jaymes and others have said, she was the right person for the right approach at the right time--that time being 1961 to 1963, when the country was fascinated with all things French, due in large part to Jacqueline Kennedy's influence.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Julia Childs is the culinary equivalent of the "Big Bang" in the US.

She was the first to popularize fine dining at home.

She was the first to use TV (1963) to actually teach cooking (when Emeril was only 4 years old!)

She wrote serious cookbooks that actually contained reproducible recipes.

I grew up watching her cooking show, she was captivating, goofy, intelligent, and quirky...

These statements are all correct except for "She was the first to use TV (1963) to actually teach cooking"

She was the first female chef to have a NATIONAL cooking show.

The first chef on TV and previously on radio, in the L.A. area was Chef Joseph Milani who was on radio in the 1930s and on TV in the late '40s and early '50s.

The first female chef on TV was Mama Weiss on KHJ-TV in Los Angeles in the early '50s. I lived off and on with my dad in the San Fernando Valley from July '52 until June '54 and her show came on just as I got home from school and I loved it.

My dad had built her home, so knew her quite well, and got her cookbook for me for Christmas '53 and I still have it.

However, Julia did have a profound effect on cooking all across America soon after her show began to air.

I watched Julia's show when it was first aired and I loved it too.

Most people would never think of cooking with garlic - it was something "foreigners" used. Olive oil was also rarely found in the kitchen. (Strangely enough one could find a very small bottle in a medicine cabinet as doctors would often prescribe warm olive oil drops in a child's ear for an earache!)

As was said earlier, "You had to be THERE" at that time and in that place.

TV dinners were so common in most homes as to cause manufacturers of refrigerator freezers to increase the size of the freezer section exponentially. Prior to that the compartments were just large enough for ice cubes and a few boxes of frozen vegetables and a couple of cans of orange juice.

Supermarkets changed after Julia's show began. Produce sections were enlarged and many more vegetables were added. Fish sections were enlarged. More and different cuts of meats were displayed. The demand for lamb, which had been in decline for more than a decade, suddenly increased and so did production.

If you lived through it, you know what is was like before and after and have a great appreciation for what she did.

Gourmet magazine was something that only the "elite" subscribed to prior to Julia but it became mainstream as ordinary homemakers wanted something more than Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal and etc.

Be thankful she did come along when she did, otherwise you too might be subsisting on Swanson's TV dinners!

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Another analogy to Julia would be Alfred Hitchcock. I will never forget the the impact Pscho had on me as teenager in the 60's since I had never seen anything remotely like it(because there had never been anything like ever made before). The creativity of Hitchcock has been so copied that one forgets how brilliant the original idea was. I will never forget learning from Julia Child that you could briefly boil green beans for a few minutes, toss them with garlic butter and have an entirely new vegetable from the boiled-for-hours-with-bacon,gray/green dreadful fare served in the school cafeteria.

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What you are missing is the forest.

Not to beat a dead horse, but:

Julia Child’s recipes and techniques set the standards by which all other chefs were trained and judged. It’s not surprising that today her work seems ordinary. The fact that other chefs’ recipes and techniques are equal to hers is a testament to her effectiveness as a teacher. Read Jacques Pepin’s "The Apprentice" for a different perspective on the American culinary landscape before Julia. There were other leaders in the revolution but Julia was clearly the most revered.

Wait, I think I saw the horse flinch, so one more whack.

Ford Motor Company builds ordinary cars, no better or worse than other car manufacturers, but Henry Ford was a genius who forever changed the way we live.

There-there that’s better.

Zoot

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I think Julia was special for two reasons. First there's the historical transformation thing. That's been well covered. But her life seems to have been an epic version of one of her episodes....

"Ooops, that didn't go well. Well, just pick up your head, deal with it, and move on..."

Slogging through the tough parts invariably led her to a successful conclusion.

That said, I can understand someone viewing her programs today and wondering what the fuss is about. When the Cooking Channel started running her old shows, I set my DVR to capture every one. But other than the awkward moments that make me smile and cringe at the same time, there's nothing new for me to learn. But I guess that's the point. Julia's revolution is the new normal.

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I learned to cook from MTAFC volumes one (especially) and two. They were in the kitchen so I used them and I learned a lot and I also had lots of questions which I got answered in various venues. The clarity of the text, along with the certainty that if I did was she said I would get a good result, was so true for me. My experience was later (late 70's) but in Los Angeles I think it was true that our asking for ingredients made a difference. I am not a text cookbook person, yet these volumes spoke to me; perhaps because they also had narrative which I had not seen in traditional cookbooks to that extent. Reading the autobiography which gave a context in terms of the level of testing and input to get the recipes well done. The biography was very informative.

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This book lays a great background for why Domestic Science existed, it's impact on society, and what American food was like when Julia Child stepped on the stage.

Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century

Laura Shapiro

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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Most points have been covered, but I'd like to give an example of her accessibility. My 4 year old loves cooking shows. I know that the Food Network gets a bad rap here, but it's something I turn to when my daughter wants to watch TV. I can only do so much Dora. Her current favorite show is the the one she calls the silly man who cooks aka Alton Brown on Good Eats. If she's had a good day, we watch an episode before bed.

I dvr'd a couple of Julia Child's episodes and we watched one of those the other day. My daughter loved her and says she likes her best now. I put Julia Child on and she's enthralled. Even today, there is something about her presentation that is endearing and accessible.

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And wine...

Remember?

Much of America was pretty prudish. Wine was something only a few licentious rich folks regularly indulged in.

It loosened people up considerably to watch Julia cooking with wine.

Sometimes, she even put a little into the food.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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