Today marks 100 years since the birth of Julia Child, and the internet is awash with tributes, videos and all manner of Julia-centric remembrances. But there are those who don’t understand the fuss being made over a television cook, especially one who would never make it in today’s 24/7 shows that demand flash, glamor and more style than substance.
I appreciate Julia for convincing us that it’s okay to regard food as more than mere fuel for the body. I appreciate her for teaching us to be fearless in the kitchen, so that we might create so much more–and better!–than we thought we could. And I appreciate that she enrolled in culinary school and embarked on her journey when she was solidly middle aged. I did the same thing myself, and it has opened up a whole new world for me, a world not only of food and cooking but of travel, teaching, learning, sharing and socializing. I’ve made friends with the most amazing people, and I continue to do so.
I view sharing food as a peace-promoting and bridge-building activity. When we sit down together over a meal, we can at least momentarily suspend our differences and focus on nourishment and a thing enjoyed together. Food is a safer topic of conversation than religion or politics and more interesting than the weather. I’m endlessly fascinated by what I learn about other people, countries and cultures through their food. The mere remembrance of a favorite dish has the power to transform. Once I asked a chef in Ireland–who was in the middle of his shift but stepped out to greet me–what his favorite dish was from his childhood. A broad smile spread across his face, and he took a little vacation from the heat and madness of the kitchen by describing to me how much he loved the homemade sausages his mum used to prepare.
A meal shared is more than the sum of its parts. And more than the sum of its parts is a soufflé, which I decided to make for dinner in honor of the centennial of Julia’s birth. [You can watch Julia make one herself on You Tube: Part One & Part Two]
I’m sorry never to have known Julia. Many of my friends and colleagues knew her and worked and socialized with her. I’ve never heard an unkind word about her from any of them. Her easygoing nature and lack of pretension are legend.
Julia chucked a rock into the pond, and the rings in the water rippled out and touched countless people, who in turn touch countless people. This makes me a second generation friend of Julia. I learn from those who learned from her, not just how to cook, but how to enjoy food and friendship.
Happy Centennial, Julia, Patron Saint of Cooking and Conviviality. We love you, we thank you, and we salute you.