A Day in the Life, at 90* Keeping up with Julia Child, who has a new home, a new book deal and a balky oven
Home Edition, Food, Page H-1Features Desk61 inches; 2181 wordsType of Material: Profile; Recipe
By RUSS PARSONS, TIMES STAFF WRITER
MONTECITO, Calif. -- We knock on the door of Julia Child's condominium half an hour early. She appears after a minute. "Hello, dearie," she says and apologizes for being busy. She points us toward the living room. "Here's the paper. I'll be out when I'm done with these radio interviews."
Like the rest of her apartment, the living room is small but comfortable. There's a dining table just big enough for four tucked in one corner, a couch against one wall and a couple of upholstered chairs. The kitchen is the size of a boat's galley and the bedroom doubles as her office with a computer and fax machine.
From the bedroom come whispers of the interviews, her famous voice, high-pitched and reedy. Despite the endless attempts, it seems impossible to parody accurately. Imitations invariably only hit the one public note of enthusiastic instruction; in private there is a whole range of moods.
After 45 minutes or so, Child comes trundling out with her walker and plops heavily into a chair. "Those kinds of interviews are so tiresome, don't you think?" she asks, as if everyone spends their mornings being questioned for national audiences.
" 'What's your favorite restaurant?' " she imitates the hapless radio interviewers. " 'What's your funniest kitchen disaster?' 'What's your favorite comfort food?' 'What do you want for your last meal on Earth?' " At this last, she shakes her head in wonder, both at the gall of someone asking such a question and the intellectual laziness that would prompt it.
"That's just not very interesting, is it?" she says. Child turns 90 next week, and that is probably the worst thing she can say about anything. The occasion is something of a national celebration. Her actual birthday, Aug. 15, will be spent as part of her treasured annual summer vacation in a big house by the sea in Maine with assorted nieces and nephews and their children.
But first there will have been fund-raising parties in 20 restaurants around the country and parties at Copia in Napa, the Mondavi-backed wine and food museum she is so enthusiastic about. Then after Maine, she'll head down to Washington, D.C., where an exact replica of her old kitchen will be enshrined in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
In many ways, Julia Child is American food's Elvis. She not only played a prominent part in popularizing fine cooking in this country, she came to represent it. This is not a role she sought (no one plans to become an icon), but it is one she wears easily. Spend some time with her and you quickly understand that there is little or no separation between the public and private Julias. Wherever she goes, she's the center of attention--and after 40 years, she's used to it.
After a dim sum lunch one day in a Los Angeles restaurant, the entire Chinese staff lines up to have pictures taken with her. Tirelessly, leaning on her walker, she takes first a group shot, then individual ones one after another. Her one proviso: "Only if they're not used for any kind of publicity." She has never allowed her name to be used to endorse a product of any kind.
Another time at a small informal beach-side restaurant in Santa Barbara, she's dining with friends when a distinguished looking gentleman of about her vintage sidles up to the table and, awkwardly passes her a note. She opens it up and reads: "My wife and I have been making your cucumber soup for 40 years. Thank you for all the wonderful meals." She carefully folds it back up without visible reaction. You get the feeling this happens a lot.
Even in the notoriously catty food world, almost no one has a bad thing to say about Child. That some of her recipes may be a bit dated is about the worst. But that's probably inevitable given that "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was published 40 years ago and that almost everyone in food today either learned to cook from it or learned to cook from someone who had.
"The thing that is so wonderful about this culinary profession of ours is that it is like a big family," she says repeatedly. "People love what they're doing, and they love to share it with other people."
But don't mistake her for a goody-two-shoes. She's fond of a good dirty joke. She loves to gossip. And she occasionally displays a wicked sense of humor.
During World War II she worked for the Office of Strategic Services (doing paperwork mainly; she laughs at the repeated reports that she was a spy). One of her office's projects was to develop a shark repellent to help airmen downed at sea. But they could get no support from the Navy, she says, because "we couldn't get the Navy to admit that sharks ate Navy men. They didn't like to say, 'Dear Mrs. So-and-So, your son was eaten by a shark. They'd much rather say: 'Your gallant son was lost at sea.'
"Then one day, a shark was caught and they opened him up and found he had some undigested parts of people in his stomach. One of them still had fingerprints, and it turned out to be a Navy man. There was such glee in our office that they had finally proven a Navy man could be eaten by a shark."
The last year and a half has been a period of tremendous change for Child. Last fall she closed up the big house in Cambridge, Mass., where she'd lived for more than 40 years. She donated the structure to her alma mater, Smith College, and distributed most of her belongings among her family. The bulk of her cookbook collection went to the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, the kitchen to a grateful nation.
Now she is back home. With her New England twang and close association with Boston, some people might be surprised that Child is actually a Californian. She was born Julia McWilliams in Pasadena in 1912 to a well-to-do family that appreciated good food.
"My mother was very interested in setting a good table and she always had a good cook," Child remembers. "And I was always hungry. I always ate with great pleasure, even if I didn't know much about it."
The place she calls her "nice little pad" is a very nice luxury planned community--she resists calling it a retirement home--"I'm not retired, am I?"
Her apartment is comfortable enough, but there is a sense of a life stripped to its essentials. The living room is dominated by two striking paintings by her late husband, Paul: one a fairly representational look down a vertiginous cliff to the ocean in Mendocino, the other a nearly Cubist brightly patterned impression of a village in southern France.
One entire wall in the living room is devoted to a bookcase that seems to be the beating heart of the house. Here, cheek by jowl, is everything from food research ("Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards Manual" and Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking") to fiction (several Edith Wharton novels, a collection of Colette short stories, mysteries by her favorite authors Linda Fairstein, Sue Grafton and Mary Higgins Clark, and even a "Harry Potter").
On the table by the couch rests current reading: Nancy Milford's new biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay and a 2002 almanac.
Here there are gardeners to take care of the flowers on her back patio and a central dining room whose breakfast bacon she praises highly. Most important, there is medical help always available. In the last year and a half, she has had three operations on her back to relieve a pinched nerve that made walking painful. Just last month she was noticeably thin and tired. "The worst part about all of the surgery was I didn't feel like eating," she says. "That was terrible."
But now her appetite has returned and she seems hale and hearty. Her only apparent concessions to age are her walker--which she hopes to shed soon--and a handicapped parking sticker, which she doesn't ("These things are worth their weight in gold," she chortles as we pull into a convenient spot in a crowded Montecito parking lot).
She still lives alone, thanks to the care supplied by the complex. During the day her longtime assistant, Stephanie Hersh, who teaches kids' cooking classes and has her master's degree in food history from Boston University, comes by to help take care of business.
"At my age, it's nice that nobody needs to worry about me, including myself," Child says. "I think people are very foolish and very selfish when they get to be around 80 and they haven't decided what their final days are going to be. It's very difficult for the family.
"If you put it off and something happens, you can get dumped. Any of these places, if you can't come in under your own steam, you can't come in. They won't even look at you if you have to be carted in."
Child doesn't talk much about her age or mortality. Glooming about is not for her. Yet her grief over her husband's death in 1994 is palpable still and perhaps a little complicated. He died in a nursing home after five years of declining health.
"It was very difficult to see someone going downhill that way," she says. Especially, it is pointed out, when she was still doing so well herself. "Exactly, exactly," she agrees.
"For five years he really didn't know what was going on. Even so, when he died, it was a real shock--him not being there. It's so final. It's a real shame, because he would have loved all of this."
Later she gently counsels a longtime friend who is thinking about getting married to someone much younger (Paul was a decade older than her): "Marry a woman your own age or older. You don't want to leave them alone. If Paul had been my age, I'd still have him around."
Her current project is a book about their years in France during the 1950s. Paul was a talented photographer as well as painter (it's his photos that illustrate the early editions of Waverly Root's "Foods of France") and this will be a combination of pictures and memoir with maybe a few recipes.
"I was talking with my editor about it the other day," she says, referring to Judith Jones. "I just have to take two or three days a week and shut everything else out, turn off the phone. I'll get started as soon as I'm done with all of this [birthday celebration]."
At the table, Child is still an enthusiastic and discerning eater. Her appreciation for French food is profound, for other cuisines--with the exception of Chinese--less so. "I must say, I'm not terribly pleased with all the Italian-esque food we're getting lately," she says. "I'm not mad about pasta," pronouncing it in the New England way, past-a.
Wherever she is, she analyzes every dish, cutting quickly to the heart of it. "This is a little thick, don't you think? I wonder how long it's been sitting," she says of a soup one day. On another: "Ground cooked rice is such a wonderfully subtle thickener. It's a shame people don't use it more."
She loves to talk about meals and cooking, wine and cooks, but her appreciation is not limited to haute cuisine. Ask and Julia can tell you the location of every In-N-Out Burger between Santa Barbara and San Francisco.
"I remember having this nephew come to visit and it happened to be a weekend when there were a lot of food people around. As he left, I asked him, 'Did you ever spend a whole weekend with people who never discussed anything else but food?' He said, 'No.'
"But there's always so much to talk about, isn't there?"
Though she does cook for herself, she doesn't do it as often as she used to. The kitchen is tiny. The only oven is a small under-the-cupboard model of one of those new quick-cooking gadgets. After a year and a half, she still hasn't learned to use it. It is the bane of her existence.
"It's got [programs] for different dishes," she says with exasperation. "It tells you what to cook, you don't tell it. And the book they give you doesn't tell you much about how it works, either. It tells you how to make something called Hawaiian Chicken, but not a roast chicken. I'm either going to find some way to short-circuit it or I'm going to take it out to the trash."
It's not that she's anti-technology. She is an avid fan of word processors. "You can take something off, transpose it somewhere else, save it somewhere, then present your publisher with a really nice, clean manuscript," she says. "Oh, it was terrible, before. You'd have to make four or five copies of everything and when you made a mistake you'd have to erase every one."
And the big Dell computer in the bedroom always seems to be on.
"I love working," she says. "You don't have to retire nowadays, do you? I don't even know what it would mean."
Tuna or Swordfish Steaks With Wine, Tomatoes and Herbs (Thon a la Provencale)
Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
This recipe is from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." A 40th anniversary edition was published last year by Knopf.
3 pounds tuna or swordfish cut into steaks 3/4 inch thick
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
9 to 10 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
1 cup minced onions
3 pounds tomatoes (about 5 large tomatoes), peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dry white wine
1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon flour blended to a paste with 1 tablespoon softened butter
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Remove the skin and cut the fish steaks into serving pieces. Blend the salt and lemon juice in a 13x9-inch glass baking dish,then beat in 6 tablespoons of the oil and half the pepper. Place the fish in the dish and baste with the marinade. Cover with wax paper and marinate 1 1/2 to 2 hours at room temperature, turning and basting the fish with the marinade several times. Drain the fish and dry it thoroughly on paper towels. Discard the marinade, which will be strong and fishy. Wash out the dish.
Cook the fish rapidly in a large skillet over high heat in 3 to 4 tablespoons of very hot olive oil, a minute or two each side, to brown lightly. Return the fish to the dish.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the onions slowly in the skillet for 5 minutes, until tender but not browned. Stir in the tomato pulp, garlic, oregano, thyme, salt and remaining pepper. Cover and cook slowly for 5 minutes. Correct the seasoning and spread the tomato mixture over the fish.
Place a cover or aluminum foil over the baking dish and place in the lower third of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Pour in the wine and bake 30 minutes more, turning the oven down to 325 degrees as soon as the fish is simmering.
Remove the fish to a serving platter, scraping the sauce off the fish and back into the baking dish. Keep the fish warm for about 5 minutes while finishing the sauce.
Boil down the sauce in a skillet over high heat until it has reduced to about 2 cups. Stir in the tomato paste. Simmer for a moment and correct the seasoning.
Off heat, beat in the flour and butter paste, and bring again to a simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the chopped parsley, spoon the sauce over the fish and serve.
6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings: 363 calories; 335 mg sodium; 70 mg cholesterol; 15 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 42 grams protein; 2.09 grams fiber.
Noncollapsible Eggplant Souffle
Active Work Time: 1 1/2 hours * Total Preparation Time: 3 hours * Vegetarian
From "The Way to Cook" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1989). To puree the garlic, place a peeled clove on a cutting board, smash it with the flat of a chef's knife, mince, then smear against the board with the flat of the knife.
FRESH TOMATO SAUCE
1/2 cup minced onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 large cloves garlic, pureed
Pinch of saffron threads, optional
1/4 teaspoon dried orange peel
Freshly ground pepper
Cook the onions in the oil in a 2-quart covered saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender but not brown--6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes; cover and cook slowly several minutes until they have softened slightly. Stir in the thyme, bay leaf, garlic, saffron and orange peel, if using; salt and pepper lightly to taste. Simmer slowly, partially covered, for 30 minutes, adding a little juice from the tomatoes if the sauce becomes too thick. Taste carefully and correct the seasoning. Makes 2 1/2 cups.
2 (1 1/2-pound) eggplants
1 1/2 cups minced onions
2 to 3 cloves garlic, pureed
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
5 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups hot milk, divided
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup coarsely grated Swiss cheese
5 egg whites
2 cups Fresh Tomato Sauce, for serving
Steam the eggplants until tender, 40 to 45 minutes, depending on size. They are done when soft and somewhat shriveled; a skewer will pierce through one easily.
Slice off the caps of the eggplants. Quarter them lengthwise--the flesh should be soft and white. Scoop off all but 1/8 inch of flesh, leaving the skin intact. Coarsely chop the flesh; reserve the skin.
Set a large skillet over moderate heat, add a little olive oil and cook the onions until tender, 5 minutes. Fold in the garlic and cook a few seconds; blend in the eggplant flesh. Season with salt and pepper, cover the pan and cook slowly 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the eggplants are thoroughly tender. Break up the eggplant flesh with a wooden spoon so that there are no large chunks. Uncover, raise the heat and saute for several minutes, tossing to brown very lightly. Fold in the parsley; taste and correct seasoning.
Meanwhile, oil another large nonstick skillet and brush the eggplant skin with oil. Lay the skin flesh side down in the skillet and set a lid or pie plate on top to flatten it. (You may not need all the skin.) Cook slowly until the skin is tender but not browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Cut the skin into strips and arrange skin side down in an oiled 2 1/2-quart baking dish.
Melt the butter in a 2 1/2-quart saucepan, then blend in the flour to make a smooth paste. Stir over moderate heat until the butter and flour foam together for 2 minutes without coloring more than a buttery yellow. Remove from the heat.
When the bubbling stops, pour in all but 1/2 cup of the hot milk, whisking vigorously to blend. Then whisk rather slowly over medium heat, reaching all over the bottom and sides of the pan, until the sauce comes to a simmer. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes, stirring and thinning out the sauce as necessary with dribbles of the milk.
Beat the egg yolks into the white sauce, then fold in the cooked eggplant flesh, salt and pepper to taste and the grated cheese.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees and place a roasting pan with 1 inch of water on a rack in the lower middle level. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry, about 3 minutes. Stir a quarter of them into the eggplant mixture; delicately fold in the rest. Being careful not to disturb the eggplant skins, turn the souffle mixture into the baking dish. Attach a double-thick strip of oiled aluminum foil around the top of the dish, letting it come 2 inches above the rim but no more than 1 inch below the rim--or it might siphon up the water in the pan.
Set the souffle in the pan of water;bake until it has puffed and is browned lightly, 1 1/4 hours.
Remove the souffle from the oven and cool 15 minutes--it will sink an inch or so. Remove the collar and turn a serving platter upside-down over the dish; reverse the two to unmold the souffle. You may wish to decorate the top with tomato cutouts and parsley. Pass the tomato sauce separately. Serve hot, tepid or cold.
8 servings. Each serving: 248 calories; 205 mg sodium; 107 mg cholesterol; 17 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 16 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 2.94 grams fiber.
Descriptors: CHILD, JULIA
PHOTO: Julia Child, who turns 90 next week, moved into a "nice little pad" in Montecito last fall. It has a tiny kitchen--and don't even ask about the oven. Her birthday is being celebrated coast to coast.ID NUMBER: 20020807h06ltukePHOTOGRAPHER: Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: From left, Julia Child in 1980; in her "French Chef" series in the mid-'60s; showing off a fish souffle in a 1961 demonstration; her book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was published 40 years ago, and almost everyone in food today either learned to cook from it or learned to cook from someone who had; giving a lesson on skillets in a cookery demonstration in 1971.ID NUMBER: 20020807h06lq2kePHOTO: No CaptionID NUMBER: 20020807h056uykePHOTO: (no caption)ID NUMBER: 20020807h06lvjkePHOTOGRAPHER: Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: (no caption)ID NUMBER: 20020807h06lqikePHOTOGRAPHER: Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: (no caption)ID NUMBER: 20020807h06lsfkePHOTOGRAPHER: Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: Julia Child, as in this 1961 lesson, combined passion with practicality, advising on which spatula to use and how to strain a lemon with a towel.ID NUMBER: 20020807h06lr4kePHOTOGRAPHER: MEL MELCON / Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: Julia Child in a quiet moment on her patio. She resists calling her Montecito condominium a retirement home--"I'm not retired, am I?"ID NUMBER: 20020807h056njkePHOTOGRAPHER: MEL MELCON / Los Angeles Times May not be reproduced or retransmitted without permission
© Copyright 2002 Los Angeles Times
Top Los Angeles Times Saturday August 14, 2004
AN APPRECIATIONThe joy that was our Julia* Child's special recipe? A smidge of lustiness, a dollop of merriment. Never mind measuring.
Home Edition, Calendar, Page E-1Calendar Desk25 inches; 897 words
By Emily Green, Times Staff Writer
Julia. Had Julia Child dominated only 20th century cookbook publishing, which she surely did after producing the bibles of dinner party cookery between 1961 and 1970 ("Mastering the Art of French Cooking" Volumes One and Two), we might have known her by her full name, or even "Mrs. Child." But from the moment she first appeared in the public television studios of Boston's WGBH, she became and stayed simply Julia.
In a way that few celebrities or politicians ever penetrate our lives, Julia was an honorary member of all of our families, the nation's Auntie Mame. The country didn't take to her because even the toniest PBS-watchers in Boston wanted to actually eat snails, it took to her because no other American before or after Julia has radiated such unadulterated joy straight from the TV studio into our homes.
Julia loved food. Not all food. French food. Good food. Cooking wasn't something she had to learn; she was a child of privilege from Pasadena and could have joked her way through drunken dinner parties consisting of steak Diane and baked Alaska like the rest of her contemporaries.
However, after a spell living in France after World War II, she experienced something alien to America: the celebration of food as a way of life. Once converted to the French conviction that breakfast should be spent contemplating lunch, and lunch contemplating dinner, she became America's irrepressible apostle of the good life.
By now, in the hourly news bulletins about her death only 48 hours shy of her 92nd birthday, most of us have heard her chronology. How she was born in Pasadena, educated at Smith, served during World War II in the Office of Strategic Services, married artist-cartographer Paul Child, transferred with him to Paris. How she formed a cooking school with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle (co-authors of the "Mastering" books), about the 1963 debut on PBS and the succession of TV shows -- "The French Chef," "Julia Child & Company," "Julia Child & More Company," "Dinner at Julia's."
What's missing from that great big list is the quality that made her Julia, the combination of lustiness and merriment that propelled her halfway around the world. It was this quality, and not determined bookishness, that brought her back to America bubbling with possibilities for the kitchen. It was her spirit that won the hearts of American TV viewers.
To the world, she looked Bostonian, right down to the piping New England voice. But study her endearing brand of cheek and it was unmistakably Californian. It was de rigueur in her day for rich Pasadena girls to go to college Back East. Smith, Vassar and Radcliffe were full of tanned Westerners learning to stay pale, smoke cigarettes, drink martinis and say "toe-mah-toe."
She got down the accent and the capacity for gin, but never quite escaped her Western bravado.
"I was a ham," she joked about her response to the camera, the whistles, the costumes, the jokes that attracted generations of non-cooks to her shows. Perhaps. She came from a place where people grew taller, drank more, laughed louder.
As for joining the OSS, that was patriotism Seven Sisters style: America's precursor to the CIA was a magnet for marriageable posh women in search of dashing mates. Settling back in Cambridge, Child's Ivy League education had equipped her to slot right in, lustily.
As snippets of her shows replay the next few days, the focus will be her boozy bonhomie, her inimitable recoveries as she flubs the souffle or drops the flounder, "Oh good, I had been meaning to show you how to reconstruct a big fish ... " or however the line went.
But watch closely and you will see what made her as beloved by serious cooks as by people out for entertainment. Study how intently she pats ice over the fish as she demonstrates how to thaw a frozen salmon slowly, on ice in the fridge, to preserve the all-important texture. Watch as she salts a chicken, saying "use about a teaspoon" but not measuring (never measuring), then how she rubs it lavishly with butter and sticks it emphatically on a spit. If you're not aching to eat it, if not cook it, you've been on the wrong channel.
No cookbook, not even her own, has driven people to the kitchen or had quite the same effect on Americans as watching the woman herself cook on television.
As she gained in fame, she was joined on her shows by other celebrity cooks, and her concentration seemed to animate even the less charismatic. Occasionally she was a study in sportsmanship (watching Emeril Lagasse put the entire contents of a bayou into a stock pot, she was a consummate diplomat). The most touching partnership was with French chef Jacques Pepin. As he would construct the tarts, she would commend the use of butter.
As the vogue for Mediterranean cooking swept over America in the 1980s and relentless health scares begat tide after tide of fad diets, Julia remained an unfazed, unapologetic defender of her beloved French cuisine. Asked what to use if you couldn't digest cream, she quipped, "Butter."
As American tastes in food changed, her mark remained distinct.
The appetite for food TV has grown exponentially. Food shows have given way to food channels and countless new hosts. But America has produced, and loved, only one Julia.
Descriptors: CHILD, JULIA
PHOTO: PASADENA GIRL: "I was a ham," Julia Child joked about her response to the TV cameras.ID NUMBER:20040814i2e9y6kfPHOTOGRAPHER: Associated Press May not be reproduced or retransmitted without permission
© Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
Top Los Angeles Times Saturday August 14, 2004
JULIA CHILD / 1912-2004Master Chef Brought Cuisine to the Masses
Home Edition, Main News, Page A-1Metro Desk96 inches; 3279 wordsType of Material: Obituary
By Elaine Woo, Times Staff Writer
Julia Child, the masterful cooking instructor, author and television personality whose knowledge, exuberance and daft antics lured legions of inexperienced cooks into the kitchen, demystified French cuisine and launched an enduring epicurean craze in America, died early Friday at her apartment in Montecito. She was 91.
Child, a longtime Cambridge, Mass., resident who moved back to her native California in 2001, had been in generally good health, visiting farmers markets and eating out several times a week, until a month ago, when she began suffering from kidney failure, her nephew, David McWilliams, said Friday. She passed away in her sleep after a last meal of French onion soup prepared by her longtime assistant, Stephanie Hersh.
Literally a towering figure in the culinary world, the 6-foot, 2-inch Child planted the seeds of a revolution in 1961 when she published, with co-authors Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." She was an irreverent American completely at ease in the formal French kitchen, who translated that higher culinary sensibility to a generation of cooks who were intimidated by anything beyond meatloaf and casseroles. With more than 1 million copies sold and a 40th-anniversary edition published in 2001, "Mastering" is still considered the definitive classical French cookbook in the English language.
Child went on from there to blaze trails on public television, where her cooking shows have charmed and educated millions.
"She woke Americans up to the pleasures of cooking," said Alice Waters, the founder of Berkeley's famed Chez Panisse restaurant, which started its own revolution in 1971 with a fresh take on French food. "By demystifying French cooking and with her great sense of humor, she got Americans into the kitchen, experimenting on their own. That's the first step to having a different kind of relationship with food."
"She really paved the way for a restaurant like Chez Panisse," Waters added. "I am a Francophile like she was. It was so important -- the ritual of the table, sitting down and having these courses. That was happening in fancy, intimidating, three-star restaurants owned by Frenchmen in the 1950s, but there weren't a lot of little places. She got people to understand the vocabulary of the food. It allowed us to flourish from the very beginning."
A self-described ham, Child promoted "Mastering" on a Boston educational television station and wound up with her own show, "The French Chef," in 1963. Captivating audiences with her merry patter, often klutzy maneuvers and down-to-earth attitude about a cuisine that had been too haute for the masses, she became public television's first bona fide star.
By the late 1970s, Child was an American icon, ripe for parody. In a classic "Saturday Night Live" skit, comedian Dan Aykroyd blew large her foibles, showing her blithely chattering about chicken giblets and livers despite chopping off her finger and drenching the kitchen in blood. Throughout the piece, Aykroyd trilled and warbled in the falsetto familiar to anyone who had ever watched her shows.
Delighted by the spoof, Child was the first to admit that cooking was often messy and its results imperfect. But that was part of the fun.
One time she was flipping a potato pancake and dropped it. She pulled a souffle from the oven and it promptly collapsed. On another occasion, after struggling to carve a roast suckling pig, she set down the knife, rested her hands on the table and admitted defeat. But, reminding audiences that "you are alone in the kitchen and no one can see you," Child just sailed the dishes to the table as if nothing were amiss. "Never apologize" was her steadfast rule.
Along the way, Child introduced Americans to the tools of good cooking and to a bounty of unfamiliar foods, launching stampedes to kitchen supply stores and supermarkets for copper bowls and wire whisks, goose liver and leeks.
"She made mistakes in the kitchen. But by making them and fixing them, she made everyone realize that's OK," said Sara Moulton, a former prep cook for Child before becoming executive chef of Gourmet magazine and a cooking-show host on the Food Network cable channel. "She took away the fear of cooking."
In the last few years, Child was accorded both the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and the French Legion of Honor. Her 90th birthday in August 2002 was celebrated by foodies at parties around the country, including at Copia, the wine and food museum in Napa, Calif., that named its centerpiece dining room Julia's Kitchen. The occasion also was marked by the unveiling of a replica of Child's Cambridge kitchen at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The exhibit includes nearly all the original contents, from potato peelers to the kitchen sink.
Pro-butter, pro-salt, pro-fat and pro-red meat in moderation, Child prided herself as the loyal opposition of "food terrorists," believing their alarms about cholesterol, calories and contaminants would deprive the palate of joyful tastes. She crusaded against the minimalist tendencies of nouvelle cuisine for years.
In Child's world, cooking and eating were, above all, about having a good time.
"I can remember eating with her in the great three-star restaurants of France. She would just dig into food, swab her plate with a piece of bread. Julia believed food should be enjoyed. If there was any one lesson of Julia's, that was it," said chef Patrick Healy of Santa Monica's Buffalo Club restaurant, who once spent a summer in France with her.
Her love of gastronomy was not bred at home. Born Aug. 15, 1912, Julia McWilliams was the oldest of three children of a patrician Pasadena family who remembered the kitchen of her youth as "a dismal place." Her parents employed a series of cooks who turned out the standard meat-and-potatoes fare of the day. On the cook's night off, Julia's mother took over, but her efforts were not inspiring: Baking-powder biscuits, codfish balls and Welsh rarebit were mainstays. Fortunately, Julia had the "appetite of a wolf" and was always hungry.
She attended private schools: Polytechnic in Pasadena, Katharine Branson School for Girls in Mill Valley and Smith College, her mother's alma mater. Less a scholar than the life of the party, she graduated from college with a C average, then returned to Pasadena where she tried to immerse herself in the rituals of her social class: joining the Junior League and finding a husband.
Her height was a disadvantage in the dating game. So, with thoughts of being a novelist, she went east, where she wrote advertising copy for W.J. Sloane in New York and published a few pieces in the New Yorker.
When she was 25, her mother died. She returned to California, where she dated Harrison Chandler, whose father, Harry, was publisher of the Los Angeles Times, but turned down his proposal of marriage. She was searching for meaning in her life, she told her biographer, Noel Riley Fitch. World War II helped her find it.
Too tall to join the military, she moved to Washington in 1942 and became a typist in the War Information Office. She later was hired as a researcher in the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA, where she developed a shark repellent to protect airmen downed at sea. When the OSS wanted to open a branch in India, Julia volunteered.
The branch headquarters was a tea plantation in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). On May 1, 1944, out on the veranda, she met Paul Child, an artist turned mapmaker for the OSS who was 10 years her senior. They couldn't have been more different.
"He had lived in France and I'd only been to Tijuana," she told Fitch, "and he was also an intellectual. I was a kind of Southern California butterfly, a golf player and tennis person who acted in Junior League plays."
But they became good friends in India and grew closer in Kunming, China, their next posting, where they relished excursions to local restaurants. (Chinese food would become her second favorite cuisine, after French.) Paul Child was a passionate gourmet who introduced Julia to a world where food was not merely nourishment but a sensual experience.
To capture his heart, Julia knew that she would have to learn to cook.
Back in the States after the war, she enrolled in the Hillcliff School of Cookery in Beverly Hills. When Paul Child came to visit, she cooked him calves' brains in red wine sauce, but the results were disastrous.
But Paul "married me in spite of my cooking," on Sept. 1, 1946. They lived in Washington, D.C., for two years, until Paul got a job as an exhibits officer for the U.S. Information Service in Paris.
En route to Paris from Le Havre, the Childs stopped in Rouen for lunch. Julia's meal -- oysters Portugaises on the half-shell, sole meuniere browned in Normandy butter, a green salad, creme fraiche and cafe filtre -- was epiphanic.
"It was just divine food," Child recalled decades later. "I never got over it. The whole experience was just something new and beautiful."
She signed up at a Berlitz school to amplify her college French. She then registered at Le Cordon Bleu, the renowned school of French cooking. She was the only woman in Chef Max Bugnard's class for ex-GIs who wanted to become professional cooks.
At 37, she realized that she "really knew just about nothing" about cooking. "I'd never made a real cake before," she said. "I'd never made mayonnaise."
Suddenly, she was skinning orange segments for canard a l'orange, rolling out dough for quiche lorraine, and mashing potatoes into white sauce for gnocchi a la florentine. From the moment she enrolled, Paul Child became a "Cordon Bleu widower" whose wife could not be pried from the kitchen day or night, "not even with an oyster knife."
In 1951 Child met Beck, her future co-author, who introduced her to an exclusive gastronomic society for women known as Le Cercle des Gourmettes. With her friend Bertholle, Beck had written a slim French cookbook for Americans. Stymied in their attempts to get it published, they were advised by their editor to find "an American who is crazy about French cooking" to collaborate with them. Child embraced the role. Believing most cookbooks failed to give enough detail, she said, "I thought we could really do something to explain French cooking to America."
First, however, the three women decided to open their own cooking school, L'Ecole des Trois Gourmandes, which charged $5 a lesson for classes in the Childs' Left Bank apartment.
Work on the cookbook began in earnest in 1952. Beck developed the recipes and Child translated them into readable English. But Child wound up doing far more. When Beck sent her a recipe, Child tested it until it was foolproof. Bertholle would add some flourishes, then Child would write the final version.
It was Child's idea to provide do-ahead steps, an innovation that kept the busy American housewife in mind. She also adjusted the recipes to accommodate American-size portions and supplies available in U.S. supermarkets.
She hated the skimpy directions offered in most American cookbooks. A typical recipe for chicken, for instance, said to spread butter on the carcass and broil for 20 minutes -- by which time, Child observed, "it was burning."
Her recipes were deliberately voluminous. Beating and folding egg whites alone took up four pages that detailed the exact number of strokes per second, the hand motion, even which part of the arm and wrist to employ. There were 50 pages on sauces, another 50 on poultry, and 100 on vegetables. (The longest recipe appeared in Volume II of "Mastering," published in 1970, which in 22 pages explained how to make French bread.) If a book could hold a nervous cook's hand, describing what a dish should look and feel like at every step, "Mastering" did.
"I was sure it was revolutionary," Judith Jones, her longtime editor, told Bon Appetit in 2002. "It was like having a teacher right there beside you in the kitchen, and everything really worked." It took 10 years to complete the tome. When at last the authors delivered the 700-page manuscript, Houghton Mifflin rejected it, pronouncing it "utterly unpublishable." But Alfred A. Knopf, a gourmet as well as a publisher, quickly scooped it up, even though he mainly published fiction.
In 1961, when Child was 49, her public career was launched. Craig Claiborne, then the food editor of the New York Times, called the book "monumental ... what may be the finest volume on French cooking ever published in English."
Although Claiborne, James Beard and others also were laboring to refine the American palate (pre-Child, the most popular cookbooks in the U.S. had titles like "The Can Opener Cookbook" and "10-Minute Meals"), "Mastering" created a sensation: People cooked their way through it, chapter by chapter. Said Beard, "I only wish I had written it myself."
The book did not win raves from everyone. The New Yorker, for instance, frowned on the authors' use of canned salmon and broth, among the book's few concessions to the American god of convenience. The book's success led in fairly short order to television. Invited to appear on a book review program on WGBH-TV, Boston's educational television station, Child brought along a copper bowl and a giant wire whisk and proceeded to show viewers how to whip egg whites. "Who is this mad woman cooking an omelet on a book review program?" producer Russell Morash, Child's future producer and director, thought the first time he saw her.
The station received 28 letters asking for more cooking demonstrations, a level of response that, for public television, suggested a hit in the making. Child filmed three pilot episodes. Dubbed "The French Chef," the first show, on making a French omelet, aired Feb. 11, 1963.
The timing was fortuitous. The Kennedys had installed a French chef in the White House, and more Americans were traveling to Europe, where they acquired new tastes. A generation of nascent foodies tuned in for instruction, while others began to watch because its star, this droll mistress of cuisine bourgeoise, was so entertaining.
One time the show opened on a boiling pot of water shrouded by a piece of cheesecloth. Suddenly Child was in the picture, lifting the cheesecloth and inquiring, "What's cooking under this gossamer veil? Why, here's a great big, bad artichoke, and some people are afraid of it."
She appeared in a pith helmet and fired a popgun to snare a squab for a show on "Small Roast Birds." She wore a raincoat and an umbrella to dry lettuce with a salad spinner. She deftly deadpanned one-liners. "I have a self-cleaning floor," she remarked after dropping potato peelings on hers. Afterward, viewers wrote to ask where they could purchase their own wonder floor.
Many viewers tuned in simply "to see just what rule of gastronomic or television decorum Julia might break tonight," food historian Robert Clark observed. Her antics inspired not only the "Saturday Night Live" cast but a light opera in 1991 called "Bon Appetit," which starred Jean Stapleton as Child.
The PBS show was broadcast from 1963 to 1966, went on hiatus while Child worked on the second volume of "Mastering," then returned for another run from 1970 to 1973. In 1965, it won a Peabody. In 1966, it earned public television's first Emmy. It remained a hot property for PBS and cable through the 1990s.
Child's other television shows included "Dinner at Julia's," "Baking with Julia," "Julia Child and Company" and "Julia Child -- Cooking with Master Chefs." Most were accompanied by cookbooks.
One of her last cookbooks reflected the changing tastes and technologies of the 1980s. Called "The Way to Cook," it encompassed more dishes thought of as American, endorsed the use of such tools as the food processor, and was more health-conscious.
She was criticized over the years for favoring food that padded the hips while depleting the pocketbook. "Take Julia Child off the air," one unhappy viewer complained years ago. "No more of her expensive recipes from Mars with a gallon of booze." Some viewers thought alcohol was the reason for Child's looniness, an accusation Child dismissed as pure bunk.
Although her later recipes, in a nod to the calorie police, reduced fat here and there, she disdained diet foods, which she called fake food. "I, for one, would much rather swoon over a few thin slices of prime beefsteak, or one small serving of chocolate mousse, or a sliver of foie gras, than indulge to the full on such nonentities as fat-free gelatin puddings," she wrote in the introduction to her 1989 book "The Way to Cook." "In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal."
To further the appreciation of gastronomy for amateurs and professionals alike, Child helped found the American Institute of Wine and Food with vintner Robert Mondavi in 1981. She donated 2,500 books, papers and manuscripts -- the largest collection of cookbooks in the country -- to the library of gastronomic literature at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University and Radcliffe College. And she was a driving force behind the effort to preserve Beard's Greenwich Village brownstone and turn it into a culinary center housing the James Beard Foundation.
Although bent with age and walking with a cane, Child still had the stamina to tape a new show, with master chef Jacques Pepin, when she was 85, and went on the road to promote it and the accompanying book. By then, Paul Child, the man for whom she put on her signature blue apron and took up cooking in earnest, was no longer by her side. Her collaborator, manager, sous-chef and dishwasher, who also provided many of the photographs and drawings that illustrated her bestselling guides, died in 1994 at the age of 92. The couple never had children.
Child is survived by a sister, Dorothy Cousins of Mill Valley, Calif.; three nieces, Dr. Philadelphia Cousins of Golden, Colo., Carol Gibson of Hartland, Vt., and Patty McWilliams of Middletown Springs, Vt.; and three nephews, Sam Cousins of Sherman, Conn., John McWilliams of McLellanville, S.C., and David McWilliams of South Strafford, Vt.
Burial will be private. A public memorial service is being planned.
Alex Prudhomme, her late husband's grandnephew, is completing Child's last book, a memoir of the Childs' years in the diplomatic service, which is due out in 2006 from Knopf.
The woman who considered her paramount life goals to be "marrying a nice man and cooking nice food" said Paul Child's death took some of the fun out of being the doyenne of American home cuisine. But retirement had no appeal either.
In late 2001, Child closed the rambling, three-story house in Cambridge that she had shared with her husband for 40 years and moved permanently to a compact apartment in a planned community in the Santa Barbara area, where they had spent their winters. She donated most of her Cambridge kitchen to the Smithsonian, sending her French copper pots to Copia and keeping a few small no-stick frying pans and her favorite heavy-duty kitchen shears for whipping out a hamburger or a crepe.
Her new kitchen was about the size of a boat galley and could seat only six.
Yet "I never feel lonely in the kitchen," she told Time magazine recently. "Food is very friendly. Just looking at a potato, I like to pat it. There's something so pleasant about a big baking potato or a whole bunch of peas in their shells.... [T]o me, the kitchen has never stopped being a place just full of possibilities and pleasures."
Descriptors: CHILD, JULIA
PHOTO: IN MONTECITO: Child, who would have turned 92 on Sunday, moved into her "nice little pad" in 2001. Her kitchen was about the size of a boat galley and could seat only six.ID NUMBER:20040814h056uykePHOTOGRAPHER: Mel Melcon Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: CARE IN THE KITCHEN: In this 1961 photo, Child uses a spatula to gauge a custard's consistency.ID NUMBER:20040814i2ehu6kfPHOTOGRAPHER: Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: TOWERING FIGURE: Julia Child tapes an episode of "The French Chef" in April 1970. Through the program, which made its debut in 1963, she became public television's first bona fide star.ID NUMBER:20040814i2ehrxkfPHOTOGRAPHER: Paul ChildPHOTO: ICON: Julia Child in one of her promotional videos.ID NUMBER:20040814i2ehtpkfPHOTOGRAPHER: Michael Lutch May not be reproduced or retransmitted without permission
© Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
Top Los Angeles Times Wednesday February 01, 2006
CookingTHE CALIFORNIA COOKMadame's main man* 'La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange' is the French cookbook that inspired Julia Child and Alice Waters. Now, at long last, Paul Aratow has translated it into English.
Home Edition, Food, Page F-1Features Desk46 inches; 3309 wordsType of Material: Recipe; Infobox (text included here)
By Russ Parsons, Times Staff Writer
ALMOST 40 years ago, Paul Aratow, a UC Berkeley graduate student living in Paris, wandered into a bookstore with the vague intention of learning to cook. He picked up the thickest book he could find and took it home. He cooked his way through it, and it opened up for him a glorious new world.
Eventually he used what he learned to help start a new restaurant back home, called Chez Panisse.
This year, he returned the favor. Aratow's newly published translation of "La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange" brings to English speakers for the first time a book that has often been called the "French 'Joy of Cooking.' "
It's a fascinating work, at once an encyclopedia of the basic techniques of cooking and a snapshot of French cuisine as it existed in the early 20th century. This is not the lighter, brighter experimental cooking of today's three-star palaces, but traditional cuisine bourgeoise -- dishes such as blanquette de veau, salsify au gratin, floating islands.
It's the kind of food the great chefs' moms undoubtedly cooked when they were kids (and that chefs might still cook for themselves at home). And Madame explains things every good French cook should know, such as how to fold egg whites, how to turn mushrooms, how to make a roux.
The flavors are rich and layered. It is nothing for Madame Saint-Ange to bard a fattened hen with bacon, poach it in veal stock, thicken the sauce with flour and butter and then enrich it with plenty of heavy cream.
That is precisely the dish Aratow is preparing in the kitchen of his Studio City home in the hills of Laurel Canyon. He begins by laying strips of bacon across the breast of the chicken and then trussing it in place with twine. He then poaches the chicken in a veal stock he made the day before.
Aratow, a remarkably youthful 68, constantly refers to the book and then reports back as if having checked in with the lady herself: "Madame says when you poach something, you don't just drop it in boiling liquid. You start it in lukewarm," he says. "Boiling liquid seizes the flesh and that will change the texture."
It seems obvious from the constant back-and-forth that Aratow's job as translator did not include actually retesting the recipes, something he happily concedes.
"I didn't see the need," he says. "I've been cooking from the book since 1966 and I have never been betrayed. And it has been in print since 1927 without ever being revised. I think that argues for how strong the recipes are."
Inspiration for Julia Child
INSTEAD, Aratow dictated his translation into a digital recorder and sent it to a typist for transcription. He then went over the material again for a final polish. Working this way, it took more than two years to translate the 3,000-page manuscript.
Paid out over three years, his $10,000 advance barely covered the cost of a new computer and digital recorder, but Aratow says he looks at his work as a long-term investment.
"I believe the book will sell well and continue to sell well and I'll make money in royalties," he says. "The most beautiful words an author can hear are, 'This is a back-list book,' and that's what my publisher told me."
Little is known about Madame Saint-Ange except that that wasn't really her name. The author, whose maiden name is unknown, married Saint-Ange Ebrard, taking Madame E. Saint-Ange as her pen name.
With her husband, she wrote and edited a monthly publication called Le Pot-au-Feu: Journal de Cuisine Pratique et d'Economie Domestique, much of which was collected into the book.
First published in 1927, the book became the standard text for French housewives for most of the 20th century and, in fact, it is still in print.
One of those who learned from the book was Julia Child, whom her biographer Noel Riley Fitch quotes as saying: "[It was] one of my bibles."
Indeed, one of Aratow's prized possessions is an edition of Madame Saint-Ange that Child gave to her editor-to-be, Avis DeVoto, with the inscription: "This is the best French cookbook I know," dated 1956.
"Do you know what this means?" he asks, with a conspiratorial glint in his eye. "Notice, she didn't sign it 'Avis, Happy Birthday.' No, this is 'Avis, this is a book we can use.' "
While Child certainly drew inspiration from the book, she just as surely put her own stamp on the recipes. Most importantly, she organized them in a practical fashion.
Trying to cook from Madame Saint-Ange can be maddening. A dish may call for a stock described in one chapter, thickened by a method described in another chapter and finished in a way described in yet another chapter.
It is clear that Madame intended this to be a work of instruction rather than something a cook would dip into when he felt like making dinner.
And that, undoubtedly, was how an earnest grad student like Aratow would have approached it.
Living in Paris while his then-wife was on her Fulbright scholarship (they had spent the previous year in Italy on his), he took to cooking as a break from his comparative literature studies.
Chez Panisse beginnings
WHEN they returned to Berkeley the next year, the couple began giving dinner parties. One of their frequent guests was a cinema buff named Tom Luddy, who ended up asking Aratow if he would like to help out his girlfriend, a would-be restaurateur named Alice Waters. (There is a strong bond between cinema and Chez Panisse -- the restaurant's name comes from a character in a Marcel Pagnol movie).
"They had found some backers for a restaurant, and he said Alice could cook, but she couldn't handle a commercial kitchen by herself; she needed some help," Aratow remembers.
As the chicken poaches, he begins to prepare the sauce, measuring equal weights of butter and flour in an antique French balancing scale and then whisking them together in a saucepan.
The butter and flour mixture is a little thick, so he adds more butter to make a smoother paste. Then he sets it aside to cool. Madame recommends combining the stock and the roux when both are lukewarm.
Aratow says he joined Waters at Chez Panisse on the condition that they would hire workers to do the actual cooking while he supervised, making sure the dishes were prepared according to Madame Saint-Ange.
"The idea was to open a restaurant like a French bistro, good solid country fare," he says. "We wanted to serve things that were not on anybody's menu back then -- boeuf bourguignon, poulet au blanc, cassoulet -- things that most people hadn't heard of. But they were all there in Madame Saint-Ange."
Then a couple of the cooks quit, and as part-owner he had to step in.
"Honestly, I thought I was going to die, the stress was just brutal," Aratow says. "We were flat broke. I'd be trying to figure out how to make payroll and I'd step into the kitchen and find a pool of fetid water under the refrigerator and start panicking about how much food had gone bad and how much we could save."
'See, no lumps'
THE chicken is done, so he removes it from the pan, strains the poaching liquid, reduces it by half and sets it aside to cool. After a few minutes, he whisks the cooled liquid into the cooled roux and then heats it. Gradually it thickens to a smooth, thick sauce.
"See, no lumps," Aratow says. "Just like Madame says." The broth fully incorporated, he begins beating whipping cream into the sauce.
At about the same time Aratow was becoming disenchanted with the restaurant world, Hollywood beckoned. He cashed out his half of the restaurant for $9,000 and headed south with a friend to make movies.
He had worked in film in the Bay Area, making mostly what he describes as "abstract shorts and really self-consciously arty things."
He'd also worked on documentaries, including one called "Weed" on marijuana use in Asia. Another documentary project resulted in his first book. He wanted to do a history of stag movies, so he advertised for collectors. He didn't find any films but did discover a mountain of vintage still photographs, which he turned into "100 Years of Erotica," published in 1971.
Eventually, Aratow wound up producing two movies, 1984's "Sheena," the story of the famous queen of the jungle, which received multiple nominations from the Razzie Awards -- the reverse Oscars -- and "My Man Adam," which was released in 1985.
Aratow painstakingly cuts the chicken into pieces, peels away the skin and then arranges the meat on a platter. The sauce is a pale ivory, thick and rich. He begins to pour it over the chicken straight from the pan, then stops and carefully spoons it on instead.
"What would Madame say?" he asks.
He put together the Madame Saint-Ange project the same way he would produce a movie. He had negotiated a deal for the American rights from Larousse, the French publisher, and then began a long campaign of persuading a friend at Ten Speed Press to fund it.
"I'd been talking to Ten Speed for 10 or 15 years, telling them this was the best cookbook in the world," he says. "Finally they called and said they'd asked Madeleine Kamman [author of "When French Women Cook"] about it and she agreed, so they were going to publish it." Kamman wrote the foreword.
Aratow arranges cooked mushroom caps around the edge of the plate, and the poularde a l'ivoire is completed. The chicken is moist, perfectly cooked, with a deep, pure flavor. The sauce is silky and subtle, tasting mostly of cream with a shadowy bass note of rich stock. It's the kind of thing we're not used to tasting anymore, the culinary equivalent of a Louis XIV chair.
"Wow," says Aratow. "Doesn't that taste French?"
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Tips from Madame:
* When sauteing blanched vegetables, start them in a hot dry pan and only add the butter after the surface moisture has evaporated. This way the butter will coat the vegetables rather than puddle in the bottom.
* Potato salad can be eaten cold or warm, but it must always be seasoned when it is hot so the flavors will penetrate the potato.
* When preparing duxelles (finely chopped mushrooms cooked with shallots), place the chopped mushrooms in a towel and squeeze them tightly to extract as much water as possible before you begin cooking.
* Fat rendered from beef kidneys is without a doubt the best for deep-frying. It can withstand a high temperature without burning, and food fried in it will stay crisp longer.
* Braise in a pot that is just big enough to barely hold the meat comfortably. If the pot is too small, the meat will scorch; if it is too big, the sauce will be overly diluted.
* Cold is the enemy when making mayonnaise; all ingredients and utensils should be at room temperature.
* Use only oil or butter to baste a roast, never liquid, which will hinder the browning. For this reason, do not baste with the fat from the bottom of the pan because it is very difficult to spoon only pure fat without any cooking juices.
* Always core apples before peeling them. The peel helps support the pulp and keeps it from bursting while you're cutting out the core.
* To tell when fish is done, insert a metal skewer into the thickest part and then press it to the back of your hand. The skewer will be burning hot if the fish is sufficiently cooked.
* Always cook mushrooms before adding them to a composed dish; if you add them raw, they will turn leathery and tough.
* When making mashed potatoes, boil the potatoes just long enough that they are almost cooked. If you overcook them, the potatoes will absorb too much water and crumble. Furthermore, stir in the milk only after you have beaten in all the butter.
* It is much easier to pluck a chicken that is freshly killed and has not been refrigerated.
Fattened hen a l'ivoire (poularde a l'ivoire)
Total time: 2 hours, 25 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
Note: Adapted from "La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange"
1 (4- to 4 1/2 -pound) chicken, including giblets
1 lemon, cut in half
4 slices bacon, plus 1/4 cup diced bacon, divided
6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 1/2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 small onion, quartered
1 stalk celery, chopped
8 parsley sprigs
6 1/2 cups lukewarm veal or chicken stock
1 1/4 cups white wine
1/2 pound mushrooms, stems removed and reserved
1 whole clove
5 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1. Rub the chicken with the cut side of one-half lemon. Lay the bacon slices across the breast to cover, then truss the chicken closed with twine.
2. Scatter 2 tablespoons butter and the diced bacon across the bottom of a flameproof large casserole with cover. Add the carrots, onion, celery, parsley and chicken giblets. Cover and cook over very gentle heat to sweat until tender without letting the vegetables color, a scant 30 minutes. If necessary, add 1 tablespoon water from time to time. Once the vegetables have softened enough, add just enough water to cover them.
3. Lay the chicken breast side up on top of the vegetables. Add the stock and enough of the wine to cover the bird by about half an inch. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Use a spoon to skim the little bit of foam that rises to the surface when the liquid starts to boil. Add the cut stems and any trimmings from the mushrooms, the clove and a scant 2 teaspoons salt.
4. Cover the casserole, leaving the lid slightly ajar for steam to escape. From this point, the liquid should not boil but barely simmer, so that the chicken is cooked by poaching for 45 to 55 minutes. Check that the chicken is done by piercing the flesh of the drumstick joint, which takes the longest to cook. The pearl of juice released must be completely white.
5. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the mushroom garnish. Place the mushroom caps in a small saucepan with one-half cup water, a pinch of salt, the juice of the remaining half lemon and 2 tablespoons butter. Cover, bring to a boil and cook 4 to 5 minutes, shaking the pot from time to time. Remove from the heat, but leave covered to keep warm. Drain off the water before serving.
6. Strain the chicken cooking liquid into a bowl. Leave the fowl in the covered pot off heat to keep it good and hot while preparing the sauce.
7. Measure 3 cups of the cooking liquid and boil it rapidly in a saute pan to reduce it by at least half, to about 1 1/4 cups. Cool the reduced stock in a bowl.
8. In the same pan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over low heat, stir in the flour to make a smooth paste and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the roux cool for a minute or two.
9. Whisk in the reduced cooking liquid a little bit at a time, whisking continuously. When all the broth has been added, return the pan to the fire over high heat and cook for another couple of minutes.
10. Stirring continuously, add the cream gradually, in 4 or 5 additions, adding the fresh amount only when the sauce has resumed boiling; this takes just a few minutes. The sauce should be perfectly smooth and just thick enough, with a beautiful white matte tint, to justify its name. It can also be kept warm in a double boiler until you are ready to serve.
11. To serve: You should always carve this dish in the kitchen because the skin should be removed from the pieces. Take off the bacon strips. Detach the thighs and separate the drumstick from the upper thighs. Detach the wings at the same time that you cut the breast. Remove the skin from the legs and breast and discard. Divide each wing into 2 pieces cut on the bias. You will have 6 pieces in total.
12. Arrange the chicken on a round plate that has been well warmed and arrange the mushrooms around the outside. Cover each piece of chicken with a few tablespoons of sauce and serve the rest in a sauceboat.
Each of 6 servings: 705 calories; 45 grams protein; 17 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 47 grams fat; 24 grams saturated fat; 220 mg. cholesterol; 1,281 mg. sodium.
Chestnut cake (gateau de marrons)
Time: 2 hours
Servings: 8 to 10
Note: Adapted from "La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange." Three-quart charlotte molds are available from Ambassador Fine Foods in Van Nuys, (818) 787-2000; www.culinary-direct.com; and www.bridgekitchenware.com. Or you may use a 7-inch springform pan.
1 vanilla bean
6 tablespoons sugar
Cut the vanilla bean into extremely small pieces with scissors. Put the vanilla bean pieces and 3 tablespoons sugar in a mortar. Crush together with a pestle. Strain through a fine sieve, add another 3 tablespoons sugar and repeat the process.
50 chestnuts (about 2 pounds)
1 1/3 cups superfine sugar
5 eggs, separated
A good pinch of powdered vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) butter, softened, plus more for the pan
1. Make a cut around the perimeter of each chestnut shell and plunge them into boiling water for 1 minute, then peel them.
2. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add the chestnuts. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook gently until the pulp is transparent when you cut into a chestnut, 25 to 30 minutes. Overcooking will allow the chestnuts to absorb too much liquid.
3. While the chestnuts are still burning hot, force them through a tamis or fine sieve, four to five at a time, collecting the puree in a bowl.
4. Mix the puree with a wooden spoon and stir in the sugar. It will melt and dilute the puree. Then add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating the puree vigorously as you go. Stir in the vanilla powder.
5. Beat the butter until it is soft and creamy and beat that into the batter.
6. Butter a charlotte mold. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
7. Whisk the egg whites to firm peaks. Using a spatula, thoroughly mix one-fourth of them into the batter. Spread the remaining whites on top of the batter and then fold them together: Cut into the whole mixture with the spatula, so that you pass under the mass, turning it and placing it over the whites. Turn the bowl and repeat until the batter and whites are thoroughly mixed together. You must do this with large, generous gestures, measured yet swift, going out from the middle to the edges, continually turning the bowl on the table.
8. Pour the batter into the charlotte mold. Lightly strike it on a folded towel on the table to compact it.
9. Bake until the batter is set enough that a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour (a springform pan will take 10 or 15 minutes longer). Cool in the pan to ensure that the cake settles before you unmold it. Serve with whipped cream.
Each of 10 servings: 590 calories; 5 grams protein; 65 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 36 grams fat; 21 grams saturated fat; 190 mg. cholesterol; 40 mg. sodium.
PHOTO: SAUCY POULARDE: With twine for trussing, Aratow prepares the fattened hen.ID NUMBER:20060201itofesncPHOTOGRAPHER: Myung J. Chun Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: INFLUENTIAL: Poularde a l'ivoire, top, is from "La Bonne Cuisine," a copy of which Julia Child gave her editor, center. Paul Aratow spent more than two years translating it.ID NUMBER:20060201itofhkncPHOTOGRAPHER: Myung J. Chun Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: INFLUENTIAL: Poularde a l'ivoire, top, is from "La Bonne Cuisine," a copy of which Julia Child gave her editor, center. Paul Aratow spent more than two years translating it.ID NUMBER:20060201itofioncPHOTOGRAPHER: Myung J. Chun Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: INFLUENTIAL: Poularde a l'ivoire, top, is from "La Bonne Cuisine," a copy of which Julia Child gave her editor, center. Paul Aratow spent more than two years translating it.ID NUMBER:20060201itqdbnncPHOTOGRAPHER: Mel Melcon Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: LE LIVRE: Paul Aratow's copy of "La Bonne Cuisine."ID NUMBER:20060201itofjancPHOTOGRAPHER: Myung J. Chun Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: (no caption)ID NUMBER:20060201itqdcnncPHOTOGRAPHER: Mel Melcon Los Angeles Times May not be reproduced or retransmitted without permission
© Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times
Top Los Angeles Times Friday April 07, 2006
BOOK REVIEWLife, heaped on her plate* My Life in France Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme Alfred A. Knopf: 322 pp., $25.95
Home Edition, Calendar, Page E-1Calendar Desk35 inches; 1210 wordsType of Material: Book review
By Susan Salter Reynolds, Times Staff Writer
JULIA CHILD was a big-boned girl with a size 12 foot from a "WASPy," well-to-do family in "non-intellectual" Pasadena. She was enrolled in her mother's alma mater, Smith College, at birth. "Good breeding," she remembered with horror after the publication of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in 1961 and the advent of her television show, "The French Chef," "meant never having one's name in print."
She was a relentless autodidact, a bit of a self-named "Mad Scientist" when it came to recipes for mayonnaise and buerre blanc and other fundamentals of French cuisine. She felt for most of her life that her biggest problem was her "continuing lack of worldliness," which she compensated for by stripping things to their essentials and teaching herself to build them again. When it came to French cooking, this took enormous patience and research and a stubborn insistence on the perfect way to do things.
It also took a lot of confidence: An American housewife dares to think she can master French cooking? The reward was immortality. Men and women in their late 30s may be the last who can immediately imitate Child's rich, horsy accent as she plays fast and loose with her own recipes, but the recipes themselves and the cookbooks, stained and dog-eared, cursed and adored, live on. "Anyone," the foreword to "Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I" assures the intimidated reader, "can cook in the French manner anywhere, with the right instruction."
Child wrote "My Life in France" with Alex Prud'homme, her grandnephew. They began the project in 2003, when Child was 91. Prud'homme, an unobtrusive presence in the text, finished it in the year after her death of kidney failure in August 2004. Child thought of it as a tribute to the memory of her husband, Paul, who introduced her to France in 1948. (He died in 1994, at 92.)
Julia Child's love affair with France was hard and fast and immediate. From that first meal at La Couronne in Rouen with Paul, who had taken a job with the U.S. Information Service (later USIA) in Paris, "I felt a lift of pure happiness every time I looked out the window. I had come to the conclusion that I must really be French, only no one had ever informed me of this fact. I loved the people, the food, the lay of the land, the civilized atmosphere, and the generous pace of life." Could a love of French cooking be far behind?
After that first unassuming meal ("What's a shallot?" she remembers asking Paul) of oysters on rye bread with beurre d'Isigny, sole meuniere and a Pouilly-Fume (it was the first time Julia had ever had wine with lunch), she was smitten. "The best way to describe it is to say that I fell in love with French food -- the tastes, the processes, the history, the endless variations, the rigorous discipline, the creativity, the wonderful people, the equipment, the rituals."
She read famed chef Ali-Bab's 8-pound wonder, "Gastronomie Pratique," cover to cover as if it were a detective novel. Then she devoured the 1,087-page "Larousse Gastronomique." She spent hours in the markets of Paris. She signed up for a cooking course at Le Cordon Bleu, where her classmates were 11 former GIs eager to open their own restaurants. From oeufs brouilles (scrambled eggs) she moved quickly to pate en croute, boeuf en daube, terrine de lapin de garenne.
Julia and Paul set up their household in Paris at 81 Rue de l'Universite (which they called "Roo de Loo"), with a kitchen, a batterie de cuisine (pots and pans and utensils) and a femme de menage (a housekeeper). On family money and Paul's salary, the two ate at such classic restaurants as Le Grand Vefour and La Tour d'Argent. They drank Moselle on picnics in the countryside, Chateau d'Yquem '29 on New Year's Eves and countless other now-unaffordable wines. French cuisine worked its magic: Not only could Julia, at 91, remember each meal, but as the young wife just learning to cook, she found that "deeply sunk" childhood memories began to bubble to the surface. Everything she had ever eaten came back to her "in vivid detail."
The two never had children (although at one point, a liver attack made Julia think she was pregnant), but they had cats and friends and shared interests. In 1952 Julia started to teach cooking with two friends who were already at work on a cookbook. The three -- Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck and Julia -- called themselves "L'ecole des Trois Gourmandes." Julia joined the cookbook project, which would take the next nine years to complete. All the while, she was on the road: Paul was transferred to Marseille in 1953, back to Washington, D.C., in 1956 and then to Norway in 1959. Their next stop was back in the United States, but by then Julia was irritated with American life. Not only could she not find true creme fraiche, she also found too many Americans "blissfully unaware of world politics or culture and ... exclusively interested in business and their own comfort."
The book, tentatively titled "French Home Cooking," grew and grew and grew to more than 750 pages. Houghton Mifflin, not surprisingly, wanted it trimmed to better suit impatient American cooks. Julia's long relationship with Simone (Simca), a severe and aristocratic cook from Normandy, suffered numerous ups and downs, with Simca repeatedly insulting Julia's interpretations of the recipes. It's not French, she would write or scream at the result, it's American! A friend gave the book to Judith Jones, an editor at Knopf, who shared Julia's passion for France and French cooking and asked to take it on in its full length but with a new title. It received a rave review from Craig Claiborne in the New York Times.
After several cooking demonstrations on the still-young "Today" show and on "I've Been Reading," a Julia-dubbed "egghead" television show on WGBH Boston, she was asked to film several cooking show pilots, which aired in 1963 as "The French Chef," the first cooking show of its kind. (By its first birthday, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" had sold 10,000 copies and was in its third printing.)
"How magnificent to find my life's calling, at long last!" wrote Julia after her first year in France. She had, at the time, already decided that she had three main faults: She was "confused," she suffered from a "lack of confidence" and she was "overly emotional at the expense of careful, 'scientific' thought." "I was thirty seven years old," she wrote, "and still discovering who I was."
By 49, when "Mastering" was published, Julia had grown into herself, becoming a fully realized, completely happy and very sophisticated woman of the world. It is, of course, possible that "My Life in France" was written through rose-colored glasses, but the memories are too sharp, too clear; the chicken, as she told Prud'homme fondly, still "chickeny." "Mastering" has a reassuring tone that inspires the ordinary cook to stop whining and, well, cook: "Keep your knives sharp," the authors advise American housewives, "Pay close attention to what you are doing while you work," "Allow yourself plenty of time" and "Clean up after yourself frequently to avoid confusion."
PHOTO: CULINARY QUEST: After her first meal in France, Child writes, "I fell in love with French food -- the tastes, the processes, the history ... the wonderful people, the equipment, the rituals."ID NUMBER:20060407ix5jbzknPHOTOGRAPHER: Paul Child Alfred A. Knopf May not be reproduced or retransmitted without permission
© Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times
Top Los Angeles Times Sunday December 10, 2006
HER WORLDFrance was her entree, then the world was her oyster* A memorable lunch changed Julia Child's life and, consequently, the palates of many in the United States.
Home Edition, Travel, Page L-12Features Desk32 inches; 1205 words
By Susan Spano, Times Staff Writer
Paris -- WHEN Julia Child first came to France in 1948, she couldn't cook an omelet. She was a tall, gawky Pasadena girl married to a cultural liaison officer posted at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. She had heard the French were touchy. She couldn't speak their language and had no expectations for her stay.
At Le Havre, the couple's Buick station wagon was unloaded from the ocean liner America, and they set off toward Paris. Julia's husband, Paul, wanted to stop for lunch at La Couronne, a restaurant he knew in Rouen. She felt nervous and shy but was happy to discover that the waiters were friendly, chiefly because Paul spoke French and loved to talk about cuisine.
Then came her first taste of proper French food: briny portugaises oysters with rye bread, followed by Dover sole in butter sauce and a simple green salad. Julia felt guilty about drinking wine at lunch -- a crisp, white, Loire Valley Pouilly Fum. They had fromage blanc for dessert and espresso.
"It was the most exciting meal of my life," she wrote in "My Life in France," the book she was working on with her grand-nephew Alex Prud'homme when she died in 2004.
Reading it recently, I realized I had in my hands not just a tender memoir of Child's young married days, with photos taken by her husband, but also a guidebook to her adopted country, La Belle France.
For instance, the venerable Couronne restaurant, founded in 1345, is still open for business in a half-timbered building on Rouen's old market square. Over the years, many noteworthy people have supped there, including Salvador Dali, who especially loved the duck. To my mind, La Couronne deserves its name, which means "the crown," for serving Julia Child the meal that changed her life -- and eventually Americans' perspectives.
I met Child shortly before she died and wrote a column about her Cambridge, Mass., kitchen, installed in 2002 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Before that, I put grease stains on my copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and laughed myself silly at Dan Aykroyd's impersonation of Child boning a chicken on "Saturday Night Live."
When I moved here about three years ago, I felt as intimidated as she did at La Couronne. But I kept something she told me tucked in the back of my mind: "Being tall, like I am, I never felt inferior."
The Childs took to Paris like butter to a hot pan. At first, they stayed in the Hotel Pont Royal at 7 Rue Montalembert, now the home of L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, a restaurant created by one of the most famous chefs in France. Guests sit at the high bar lining the exposed kitchen and eat multiple small courses, instead of the big, traditional French meals Julia adored. But the food is delicious, so I think she'd approve.
The Childs ultimately settled into an apartment at 81 Rue de l'Universite on the Left Bank; "Roo de Loo," they called it. The flat had shabby, old-fashioned decor, weak electric lights and no central heating. It came with a series of nutty maids and a potbellied stove that Julia immediately replaced with a new range.
Although pressed for cash, the Childs often ate out. By accident, they discovered Le Grand Vefour, on the northern side of the Palais Royal and one of the oldest and most elegant restaurants in Paris. The head waiter soon got to know them; one day there, Julia spotted the writer Colette, widely known for her voracious appetite.
Julia celebrated her 40th birthday at the three-star restaurant Laperouse on the Left Bank: sole with truffles, roast duck and a bottle of red Chambertin from Burgundy.
By then, she knew her Burgundies from her Bordeaux and her bechamel sauce from her beurre blanc because she had enrolled at the Cordon Bleu cooking school, where she studied under chef Max Bugnard. Those classes, held at 24 Rue du Champ de Mars near the Ecole Militaire, proved to be an epiphany for her.
The Cordon Bleu, founded in 1895, moved to 8 Rue Leon Delhomme in the 15th arrondissement in 1988. Although Julia never studied at the new location, it's worth a visit if only to buy a souvenir apron or pick up a schedule of daylong and weekend-long courses suitable for visitors.
Another important stop on the cook's tour is E. Dehillerin, a kitchen store that dates to 1820, one location of which is on the Right Bank at 18-20 Rue Coquilliere. From the outside, it looks like a hardware store, but inside, the shelves are packed with highly specialized cooking implements: wire whisks in dozens of sizes, petit four molds, meat saws, pepper grinders, copper pots and smokers.
Julia roamed the aisles regularly, then sat drinking red wine in the brasserie next door while her purchases were wrapped.
The Childs were positively giddy about the City of Light. "Lipstick on my belly button and music in the air -- tha-a-t's Paris, son," wrote Paul to his twin brother, Charlie.
It was a shock when they were posted to Marseilles, then to Germany and Norway. In 1961, the Childs returned to the States, moving into an old house at 103 Irving St. in Cambridge, Mass., convenient to the studios of WGBH, Boston's public television station, where "The French Chef" would be produced.
Around the same time, Simone Beck, Julia's friend and co-author of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," offered the Childs a corner lot on the property outside the village of Plascassier in the south of France. The Childs called the small, tile-roofed house they built near the Becks' place La Pitchoune and spent time there every winter, cooking and entertaining, until Paul's health forced them to close it up in 1992.
The story of La Pitchoune then passed to Kathie Alex, a native of Long Beach, who took her first cooking class from Beck in 1979. After that, she abandoned her accounting career to work in the kitchen at Roger Verge's restaurant Le Moulin de Mougins on the Riviera, learn pastry-making with Gaston Lenotre in Paris and assist visiting French chefs at COPIA, the American Center for Wine Food & the Arts in Napa Valley.
Alex didn't want to open a restaurant. But running a cooking school appealed to her, and she found the ideal place when she was offered the chance to first rent and then buy La Pitchoune.
Now, students can beat egg whites for souffles and fill eclairs in the kitchen where Child and Beck perfected the recipes that appear in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
Alex's six-night Cooking With Friends in France program is offered weekly at La Pitchoune from April to June and from September to November, for $2,450. Students can stay in the house, which now has a swimming pool.
Someday, I'm going to try it.
But for now, I have a nice piece of Dover sole awaiting me for dinner, which I will cook in butter while thinking of Julia.
Julia sauteed here
Cooking With Friends in France (at La Pitchoune), 696 San Ramon Valley Blvd., No. 102, Danville, CA 94526; (800) 236-9067, www.cookingwithfriends.com.
Descriptors: PARIS (FRANCE); COOKING; RESTAURANTS; CHILD, JULIA
PHOTO: BON APPETIT: Julia Child wowed in "The French Chef."ID NUMBER:20061210i2k005kfPHOTOGRAPHER: James Scherer WGBH May not be reproduced or retransmitted without permission
© Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times
Top Los Angeles Times Wednesday, November 28, 2007
COOKBOOK WATCHEditor to the stars* She found Julia Child and other legends, and elevated writing about cooking. Now Judith Jones tells us how.
Home Edition, Food, Page F-3Features Desk36 inches; 1550 wordsType of Material: Recipe
By Russ Parsons, Times Staff Writer
LET'S hit the high points of Judith Jones' career: pushed through the American translation of "The Diary of Anne Frank" and published Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Edited food legends such as Child, Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, Claudia Roden, Marion Cunningham, James Beard, Lidia Bastianich and Edna Lewis. And in her spare time edited the fiction of Anne Tyler and John Updike. If you happened across a character like that in a novel, you'd never believe it.
Now she's summed up that remarkable life -- or at least many parts of it -- in her autobiography, "The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food" (Knopf, $24.95). It's a fascinating look at how much things have changed in the last century, not just in terms of food itself, but also in how we write about it.
Jones was raised in what sounds like a very traditional New England household; food was regarded as a physical indignity to be endured the best one could. She relates how her mother, well into her 90s, once asked plaintively: "Tell me Judith, do you really like garlic?" It is little wonder, then, that her generation took on the appreciation of flavor with an evangelical fervor -- something that seems almost quaint today when it seems every other person you meet has a food blog.
Still, apparently, her connection to food was early and it was real. Though the family didn't seem to do much cooking, it did employ a housekeeper, Edie Price, who fascinated Jones. "The Tenth Muse" isn't a cookbook, but there are recipes that illustrate points, and many of them -- notably some delicious old-fashioned croquettes -- come from Price.
Others, such as her bitki, date to her early college experiments (and as a reminder that a cook never stops learning, she offers a version updated with Middle Eastern flavors courtesy of Roden).
And some come from her period of full foodie flower, when she and husband Evan Jones explored the culinary traditions of their native New England and came up with gems such as frozen maple mousse.
But for the most part, "The Tenth Muse" is more about writing about cooking than about the act of cooking. And for that, Judith Jones, the editor par excellence, is unequaled -- and sure to make many of this generation's aspiring food writers green with envy.
In her heyday -- roughly the early 1960s through the mid-1980s, though Jones continues to work today -- editors actively sought out previously unheard voices and then worked hand in hand with the authors to bring the books to print. Jones found Roden, Cunningham and even the previously oft-rejected Child through friends, Jaffrey through the slush pile, and Hazan through Craig Claiborne's New York Times column.
Once she found them, she worked with them intensely. Apparently it was not uncommon for her almost to move in with an author for a month or two during the preparation of the manuscript.
All of this is a far cry from today, when cookbook publishing has been industrialized to the point that it is exceedingly difficult for authors without an established publicity "platform" (i.e. television show or restaurant) to get their books published. And when editors, who generally do little line-editing, are spread so thin their communication with authors is largely by occasional e-mail.
Indeed, the strength of the book for me is Jones' sketches of some of the people she worked with. These are clear-eyed but generally sympathetic -- she does seem to have a great editor's affection for writers -- though it must be said that Hazan might not be pleased with her portrait. Apparently Hazan was not so open to suggestion as other writers and was quite frank about it.
As autobiography, "The Tenth Muse" is a throwback as well. While today's writers seem compelled to confess, Jones for the most part honors the New Englander's rock-ribbed code of omerta. Even the death of her beloved husband is dealt with in an elliptical fashion that seems a little puzzling. And I couldn't help but want to know more about her editing Tyler and Updike -- both are dealt with in a sentence or two about their relationship to the table (Tyler's positive, Updike's not so much).
But then, this is primarily a book about a life in food, not a life in general. And what a life it has been.
Middle Eastern bitki
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Note: Adapted from "The Tenth Muse" by Judith Jones.
6 slices day-old white bread, crusts removed
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil, or a combination
3 very large white onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons water
1. Tear the bread into rough pieces into a bowl (you should have about 2 1/2 cups bread pieces), and pour the milk over. Let soak. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and saute the onions slowly, stirring occasionally. After a few minutes, cover the pan and continue to saute over low heat, shaking the pan and stirring occasionally so the onions don't stick, until they are soft and golden, about 45 minutes.
2. When the bread is soft, squeeze out the milk and discard the milk. Mix the bread with the ground lamb, cinnamon, allspice, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper, then form into balls a little smaller than a golf ball. Make an indentation in each lamb ball and insert a few pine nuts, then close up the dent.
3. Tuck the meatballs into the pan with the onions and cook slowly, covered, turning them now and then, for about 20 minutes.
4. When the meatballs are done, whisk the yogurt and cornstarch paste together in a saucepan over low heat until thoroughly blended, and let the mixture simmer as slowly as possible, stirring in one direction, for about 10 minutes. Stir the yogurt mixture in with the lamb balls and onions, season to taste if necessary and sprinkle just a little dried mint on top.
Each serving: 629 calories; 37 grams protein; 37 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 37 grams fat; 18 grams saturated fat; 149 mg. cholesterol; 1,133 mg. sodium.
Total time: 40 minutes, plus at least 5 hours chilling time
Note: Adapted from "The Tenth Muse"
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups finely minced cooked turkey
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, chives, marjoram or mint or a combination
Freshly ground pepper
Flour for dredging
1 beaten egg
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1 quart or more canola oil for deep-frying
1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, stir in the flour, and cook gently over low heat 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Off heat, pour in the chicken broth and whisk vigorously. Return the sauce to medium-low heat, bring to a simmer, stirring constantly to eliminate any lumps and cook gently, about 5 minutes. Stir in the turkey, green onions, herbs, one-half teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper and let cool, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
2. Shape the cold meat mixture into four croquettes (roughly 4-inch cylinders flattened at the ends); roll them first in flour, then in egg, and finally in breadcrumbs, making sure that they are coated all over. Chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. In a large, deep pot, heat the oil until a thermometer inserted reads 360 degrees, or until a crumb of bread dropped in the oil sizzles immediately but doesn't turn dark quickly, and lower the croquettes, one or two at a time, into the hot fat. After about 2 minutes, when browned on the bottom, turn them and fry for 1 or 2 minutes more. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve, but they are best eaten right away.
Each serving: 428 calories; 25 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 28 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 129 mg. cholesterol; 573 mg. sodium.
Frozen maple mousse
Total time: 30 minutes, plus freezing time
Note: Adapted from "The Tenth Muse"
1 cup maple syrup
2 egg whites at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 cup heavy cream
1. Pour the maple syrup into a deep 1-quart pan and set over medium heat. Bring the syrup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer. Watch the syrup closely. When a thermometer reads 260 degrees (or when the syrup forms a thread when dropped from a spoon) -- this should take about 20 minutes -- immediately remove the pan from the heat. When the syrup is almost to temperature put the egg whites in a mixing bowl (if using a handheld mixer) or the bowl of a standing electric mixer with the salt. Beat until they form firm peaks, about a minute. With the mixer going, pour the hot syrup in a thin, steady stream into the whites.
2. Pour the cream into a separate bowl, preferably over a panful of ice to get greater volume, and beat until soft mounds form. Fold the beaten cream into the maple-egg mixture, turn into a serving bowl or individual sherbet glasses, and freeze for 2 hours before serving.
Each serving: 282 calories; 2 grams protein; 37 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 15 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 54 mg. cholesterol; 62 mg. sodium.
PHOTO: OLD-FASHIONED CROQUETTES: Jones shares the recipe from Edie Price, her childhood housekeeper.ID NUMBER:20071128jriyopncPHOTOGRAPHER:Myung J. Chun Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: MEMOIRIST AT HOME: Judith Jones' "The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food" reveals how food and how it's written about have changed.ID NUMBER:20071128js6hbxncPHOTOGRAPHER:Christopher HirsheimerPHOTO: FROZEN MAPLE MOUSSE: Jones' memoir offers recipes such as this one from her native New England.ID NUMBER:20071128jrixazncPHOTOGRAPHER:Myung J. Chun Los Angeles TimesPHOTO: (no caption)ID NUMBER:20071128jrixemncPHOTOGRAPHER:Myung J. Chun Los Angeles Times May not be reproduced or retransmitted without permission
© Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times
Top Los Angeles Times Friday, August 15, 2008
The NationSpy service files are secret no more* Julia Child, Sterling Hayden and thousands of others worked for the WWII Office of Strategic Services.
Home Edition, Main News, Page A-16National Desk28 inches; 1112 wordsType of Material: Infobox
By Greg Miller, Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- Before she became a famously untidy television chef, Julia Child had a secret career as an American spy, winning praise for her attention to detail as she managed the flow of classified communications from remote posts in Ceylon and China during World War II.
Long before he appeared on screen as a lunatic general in "Dr. Strangelove" and a corrupt cop in "The Godfather," Sterling Hayden was parachuting into fascist Croatia as a secret operative for America's fledgling espionage service.
And decades before he was named CIA director, William J. Casey was running clandestine operations for the agency's predecessor -- the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS -- from its European headquarters in London.
The U.S. government pulled back the covers on these careers in espionage and thousands of others Thursday, granting public access for the first time to previously classified personnel files of Americans who served in the OSS.
The records on Child, Hayden and Casey were among 35,000 personnel files made available at a National Archives facility in suburban Washington. Archives officials said the records cover the careers of more than 24,000 OSS employees.
The documents offer new insights into the inner workings of what many consider the nation's first formal spy service. There is still debate over whether the OSS was effective in hastening the end of the war. But the service, which was launched in 1942 and shut down three years later, accounts for one of the most colorful periods in U.S. espionage -- a time before intelligence agencies were burdened with bureaucracies or forced to answer to congressional committees.
The personnel records, many of them discolored and crumbling, are stored in a climate-controlled chamber on the archives' second floor. Much of the material is mundane -- records of when people were hired, how much they were paid and where they were sent.
They generally do not reveal significant details about sensitive operations; much of that information is in a separate collection. But they do provide often fascinating glimpses into the backgrounds, and even personalities, of thousands of Americans who spent at least a short part of their lives working in the cloak-and-dagger world of spies.
The new documents "add a human face to the story of this organization," said Steven Tilley, a director at the National Archives. Tilley said the documents were released in large part because of historical organizations' pressure on the CIA, which held the files until 2001 and spent two years reviewing them before agreeing to their declassification.
"These records will certainly be of interest to researchers," Tilley said. "They go to the personal [backgrounds] of the individuals who joined and fill in some of the gaps of what they did and how they did it."
For example, Child -- then Julia McWilliams -- sought employment with the OSS after becoming bored with her duties as a typist for the Office of War Information. In one document she lists as her reason for leaving that organization: "typed over 10,000 little white cards and put in for a transfer to OSS."
Child, a Pasadena native, is also disarmingly honest about other blemishes on her resume. Explaining why she had left an advertising job at a Beverly Hills department store, she wrote: "Fired, and I don't wonder."
She goes on to explain how she had made a tactical error that upset her supervisors and regretted that she hadn't "been older and more experienced" so that she could have handled the situation better.
After being hired at OSS headquarters in Washington, she was sent to clandestine stations in Asia, where she was responsible for "registering, cataloguing and channeling a great volume of highly classified communications." Child, who met her husband, Paul, in the OSS and who died in 2003, was given an award for her resourcefulness as well as her "inherent cheerfulness."
Casey's file is also illuminating. As director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Reagan, he was a deeply controversial figure, credited with rebuilding the agency's spy ranks but criticized for rogue operations and tainted by his suspected ties to the Iran-Contra scandal. His records indicate that his stint in the OSS was also marked by a penchant for risk-taking and daring operations.
In Europe, Casey developed a system for dropping operatives behind German lines during "the moonless period of the month." His agents were so well prepared that by the time they shed their parachutes, they could blend in seamlessly with the local population, armed with cover identities that "would stand up under the closest Gestapo scrutiny."
Among other prominent people whose OSS records were released were historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., CIA directors Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, major league baseball catcher Morris "Moe" Berg, Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg and millionaire philanthropist Paul Mellon (who, on his resume, listed "trustee" and "horse breeder" as prior occupations).
Of course, the vast majority of the files reflect the OSS careers of Americans whose names never achieved such recognition, and four were on hand Thursday for the opening of their own personnel files -- including Elizabeth McIntosh, 93, who followed her OSS service with a lengthy career at the CIA.
McIntosh said her time in the OSS was largely devoted to "morale operations" -- not boosting the morale of U.S. forces, she pointed out, but eroding the morale of Japanese troops. Her unit used radio broadcasts and leaflet drops to spread worry among Japanese forces.
At one point, she said, her group intercepted postcards that Japanese troops were sending home, erasing the reassuring messages the soldiers had written and replacing them with complaints about the lack of food and ammunition. Notes to sweethearts were modified to say that the soldier had met a beautiful Burmese woman and would not be coming home.
After reviewing her file, McIntosh, who lives in Woodbridge, Va., said she was thrilled to see that her supervisors had given her glowing marks. Asked whether she was comfortable seeing such information released to public view, she said, "I think it's all right. It's been a long time. There's nothing to hide anymore."
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Julia (McWilliams) Child
Aug. 15, 1912-Aug. 12, 2004
Better known as: A cooking expert, television personality, author.
Arthur J. Goldberg
Aug. 8, 1908-Jan. 18, 1990
Better known as: A lawyer; secretary of Labor, 1961-62; Supreme Court justice, 1962-65; U.S. representative to the United Nations, 1965-68.
March 26, 1916-May 23, 1986
Hometown: Montclair, N.J.
Better known as: An author and actor; films include "The Asphalt Jungle," 1950; "Dr. Strangelove," 1964; "The Godfather," 1972; "Nine to Five," 1980.
April 7, 1893-Jan. 29, 1969
Hometown: Watertown, N.Y.
Better known as: A U.S. diplomat and intelligence expert; named chief of State Department's Near East Division, 1922; director of CIA, 1953-61.
William J. Casey
March 13, 1913-May 6, 1987
Hometown: Elmhurst, Queens, N.Y.
Better known as: CIA director, 1981-87.
Sources: Who's Who, Encyclopedia Britannica
Descriptors: ESPIONAGE; UNITED STATES; HISTORY; CELEBRITIES
PHOTO: FORMER OSS MEMBER: Barbara Podoski, 94, stands among the recently declassified personnel files at the National Archives in College Park, Md. Thousands of Americans worked at least briefly for the precursor to the CIA.ID NUMBER:20080815k5lo2encPHOTOGRAPHER:Pablo Martinez Monsivais Associated PressPHOTO: FROM JULIA CHILD'S APPLICATION: In a handwritten note, the woman who would become a famous chef explains her firing from a department store advertising job.ID NUMBER:20080815k5lm4yncPHOTOGRAPHER: Pablo Martinez Monsivais Associated Press May not be reproduced or retransmitted without permission
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