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Thread: Julia Child at 100

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    Julia Child at 100

    This week marked the hundredth anniversary of Julia Child's birth. Full disclosure: I am no kind of cook and not much of a foodie. As of this year, I don't even eat meat. But I love and admire Child, for several reasons. One is that she found her way in a profession that scarcely even existed until she came along, and what did exist of it was a man's world: the celebrity professional chef-teacher. You don't have to like what she liked in order to understand the beauty of finding one's true vocation.

    Another reason I admire her is that she helped begin the change in the eating habits of the typical American in the mid-twentieth century. Those of you who aren't old enough won't remember the glorification of convenience foods in those years. Even women who didn't have a job outside the home prided themselves in using the latest powdered, canned, and frozen dishes. When I was a kid (okay, I had an excuse, my mother worked), I don't think I ate a fresh vegetable outside my aunt's house until I was in high school. My favorite Sunday evening supper was a TV dinner. (Or canned sardines.) The only two cheeses I had ever tasted were Velveeta and American cheese slices. We ate that way because (a) Mom was busy, (b) that was the food that was available in our local market. While ethnic families living in their own neighborhoods (near markets that sold the ingredients they preferred) were more likely to eat fresh, traditional food, most urban or suburban Americans and even some in rural areas ate out of packages and cans. They baked cakes from a mix and used canned or powdered soup to make sauces.

    Julia Child changed that for many people. She helped people question their eating patterns and learn to enjoy fresh foods, which turned out to be inexpensive and not all that hard to prepare. (Of course, there are more elaborate dishes as well, but everyone doesn't have to cook like a food poet!) Today I can go into a regular supermarket and get all sorts of fresh, locally grown vegetables and unusual cheeses, not to mention whole grains like millet and quinoa. I have quite the soft spot for chocolate, but I don't eat sugar flakes for breakfast anymore, and I have actually made my own soup. There's a wonderful scene in the movie Julie and Julia, in which Julia Child's French friend and co-author Simone Beck, on a visit to America, is looking at an American cookbook and encounters Marshmallow Fluff for the first time. Julia Child has made it possible for Americans to be known for more than Marshmallow Fluff.

    So happy birthday to Julia. She was one of a kind, but she is an inspiration for others, men and women alike, to be one of a kind in other directions.

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    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    it's interesting to read of your experience growing up, Olympia - not sure of your age (I am a bad judge of it, because I honestly don't use age as a factor in relationships) - but my parents didn't do tv dinners until I came around (so the late 80s early 90s)

    it still boggles my mind that produce is fresh/local/cheap... that's so not true here in AK unless you go to a farmer's market, but that only helps in teh summer/fall.. the rest of the year it's insanely high prices for anything food.

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    Custom Title heyang's Avatar
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    While the latest trend is to eat locally sourced food, I do have to say that it's pretty amazing how much fresh produce is transported from all around the world. When I went to Hawaii back in the 1990, we brought back a case of pineapples as 'souvenirs' because they weren't so readily available in the supermarkets. Now, you can pretty much get them year around in my area - NY/NJ/CT/PA. Same goes for kiwi, starfruit , etc.

    Food Netowrk has also brought back an appreciation of food and cooking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonichelle View Post
    it's interesting to read of your experience growing up, Olympia - not sure of your age (I am a bad judge of it, because I honestly don't use age as a factor in relationships) - but my parents didn't do tv dinners until I came around (so the late 80s early 90s)

    it still boggles my mind that produce is fresh/local/cheap... that's so not true here in AK unless you go to a farmer's market, but that only helps in teh summer/fall.. the rest of the year it's insanely high prices for anything food.
    You're in a special situation of course, Toni, and though I envy your locale in other regards (such as when pedestrians choke the sidewarlks here in the big city, and cars practically chase us through the intersections--and the noise!), I feel for you in terms of easy availability of daily supplies, especially foods. In the Northeast, we live in an area of truck farms, and since the farmers' market movement really got going, they have been encouraged to grow diverse varieties of apples, pears, tomatoes, and so forth. When I was growing up, everything was transported from a long ways away, and you could obtain only a few varieties that traveled well: for example, the apples came in three kinds, Macintosh, red delicious, golden delicious. Strawberries were from California, bred for strength but not flavor, and they tasted like styrofoam. I strongly recommend that anyone with access to locally grown strawberries taste them sometime. They're juicy and aromatic.

    I must point out, though, that frozen veggies are as good as fresh in terms of nutritional value and flavor, so if you're limited to those in other seasons, you're in good shape. I use them myself. Birdseye and Green Giant packaged vegetables have a lot of flavor and variety, and they're good for you, too. Julia Child was probably against them, but she grew up in Pasadena, in orchard country, and then lived in Paris and later in Boston. She had the luxury of being a fresh food snob. She probably sneered at milk chocolate too, but that would not induce me to change my heathen ways. Nonetheless, her idea of real food as opposed to packaged powdered mixes, of real grains instead of sugared cardboard flakes, is a great way to start a good diet.

    On the other hand, Toni, if we want to eat salmon that's as good as yours, we have to get it in a can. And hunting around here will net us nothing but pigeons and mice. Eeeek!

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    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    um yeah canned salmon is not as good as the real thing... even I know that and I hate fish lol

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