I didn’t know very much about Julia Child at the time, nor did I have any inkling that I would turn out to make food my profession. As my interest in cooking has grown, so has my reading of cooking and food memoirs. One summer I read back to back books about Julia Child–her own memoir, My Life in France, and Julie & Julia by the food blogger, Julie Powell, who recounts how she got her own life on track by cooking her way through Child’s first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Reading these books and learning so much more about Julia Child gave me a new level of appreciation for her and what a fearless pioneer she was. In addition to many other accomplishments, she revolutionized American cooking and created the first real televised cooking show. (I later learned that she might have also been a spy for the U.S. government!) She had a tenacious, adventurous spirit and a strong belief in herself. She savored and mastered both food and life, and that came through on screen, even to the 10-year-old me.
In this passage from her memoir (written with her grandnephew Alex Prud’homme), Julia describes the meal in France that first awakened her passion for French food. “I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly. The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter. I chewed slowly and swallowed. It was a morsel of perfection.”
Julia, happy 100th birthday from one of the many millions of women whose lives you touched.
My friend Lisa Flaxman, a Francophile like Julia, once indulged me over lunch with this delicious French salad (I called her version Salad Licoise).
Recipe: French Riviera Salad (Salad Licoise)
A delicious salad
- 4 new potatoes
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
- 1/4 lemon, juice only, about 1 Tbsp.
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (use wheat/gluten-free if needed)
- 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
- 6-9 oz. baby spinach or salad greens
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup sugar snap peas or frozen peas, chopped if using snap peas, or thawed if using frozen peas
- 1/4 cup kalamata or other pitted olives
- 6 oz. chunk light tuna, drained
- 1/4 cup shelled pistachio nuts or slivered almonds (optional)
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (optional)
- Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes in salted water until they are fork tender. (If the eggs need to be cooked, do that now too).
- Make the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, mustard, oil and salt until they are emulsified (completely blended). Allow the potatoes to cool for a few minutes, then cut them into wedges and toss them with 1 Tbsp. of the dressing.
- On serving plates, assemble the salads, starting with the greens, and then adding layers or sections of the remaining ingredients. (For younger kids, you may want to keep everything separate on their plates and serve the dressing on the side.) Spread the potatoes around the edges. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the salads.