Happy 100, Julia Child
I first met Julia Child when I was fresh out of college, writing about food for The Atlanta Journal, and with no earthly idea how to bake a soufflé. Thanks to my friend Nathalie Dupree who ran the Rich’s Cooking School in downtown Atlanta, I took classes from Julia on more than one occasion. Nathalie would call if there was a class cancellation or if she needed an extra hand washing dishes. Being young, eager, and in need of cooking instruction, I dashed out the newspaper door and ran around the block to cook with Julia. Years later I would meet Julia again, but this time in Paris where I was studying cooking at La Varenne. I was invited to a Sunday night supper at a friend’s apartment near the Eiffel Tower. Some pretty famous people might show up, I was told, but no names were mentioned. I remember gazing out the apartment window at the Eiffel Tower, thinking who could be so lucky to stay in this apartment with this magnificent view, when I heard that voice. “Bonjour!” Julia proclaimed in her imitable way as she walked through the door. The room fell silent. Then, behind Julia, came Simone Beck, known as “Simca,” Julia’s friend and co-author of her second volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. We ate French pot-au-feu, family-style beef and vegetables that looks quite simple, but you know if you have cooked even one of Julia’s recipes that it isn’t…I would be happy if my Julia story ended here, but it does not. A muggy August morning about eight years later, I was preparing to fly to Boston to interview Julia on her soon-to-be 80th birthday and cook lunch in her Cambridge kitchen. As I nervously packed my bag I wondered what could I take Julia on her birthday? What did I have that this world-renowned chef, famous writer, bon vivant, personality like no other, would want? And then I eyed a bowl of peaches on my kitchen counter. Ripe, fragrant, perfect Georgia peaches. I chose the largest one, checked for blemishes, wrapped it in tissue paper and placed it in a box. That peach would turn out to be the most appropriate gift I have ever given someone, or at least this is how Julia made me feel as she opened her front door, and with a wide smile, and booming voice, ushered me into her comfortable home and legendary kitchen. As Julia and I prepared lunch of fresh salad greens tossed with sea salt and good olive oil, and a roasted chicken from the local market, my nervous stomach relaxed. She pulled a bottle of chilled California Sauvignon Blanc from her refrigerator and poured us a glass. For dessert? Julia peeled and sliced the Georgia peach, and before forking into it, said her customary “Bon appétit!” with a smile. She knew that was what I was there for…the climax of the book, the top of the roller coaster, the end of the interview. I packed my bag, drove to the airport, flew home to Atlanta, and wrote the story. Julia Child died in 2004. Today is her birthday, and she would have been 100. Happy Birthday, Julia. Thank you for the wonderful way you made people feel when they were around you and the exceptional way you brought soufflés, choux pastry, beef Bourgignon, and all the other French classics to the American kitchen.
Let’s bake one of my favorite Julia Child recipes – Quiche aux Oignons, or Onion Quiche. It contains slowly cooked, tender, chopped sweet onions, eggs, cream, and a bit of shredded Gruyere cheese. It is perfect for summer meals with a green salad or sliced ripe tomatoes.
The recipe is here.