Five timeless food lessons in celebration of Julie Child’s 100th birthday.
As a child, my mother and I would always watch a show about gardening on PBS together. It was a Sunday tradition, and for a child who was only allowed to watch public television, I embraced the chance to be glued to the screen, not realizing that gardening shows were not the norm for most seven year-olds.
If I was really lucky I got to hang out in front of the television just a little longer and catch Julie Child. I didn’t really have any idea who she was, but I knew that she had an unforgettable voice and magically a lot of her freshly chopped ingredients would just appear in a clean glass or ceramic bowl on the counter. She effortlessly put together dishes set to the kind of calming music that can only be made popular by public television.
I wanted to cook like that.
I later came to learn exactly who Julia Child was, as most anyone that has ever spent even only a few minutes in the kitchen does. To be perfectly honest, I don’t even – gasp – own a Julia Child cookbook. But you don’t have to own a book of her recipes to acknowledge her influence on how we cook. As food writer Julia Moskin puts it in the New York Times:
It was Child — not single-handedly, but close — who started the public conversation about cooking in America that has shaped our cuisine and culture ever since.
Many of her recipes aren’t simple. Far from it. They’re not the kind of thing you throw together after a long day’s work when you’re starving and just need to eat. Often requiring complicated bakeware, they may even seem pretentious. But ultimately Child, who would have turned 100 today, left us with a value that in modern times we have nearly forgotten: good food takes time and love. It’s an art.
She was known for her wit and one liners, and any cook can take lessons from some of her well-known lines to heart.
1. “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”
Even for the vegans and lactose intolerants among us, the lesson here is to never skimp on good ingredients. And for future reference: this woman was not afraid of butter. She used 753 pounds of butter while filming the Baking with Julia series.
2. “How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?”
A country that puts effort into food has an appreciation for culture. That’s why travel and food go hand-in-hand: you can learn a lot about a place by what they’re eating.
3. “In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal.”
There is an art to good food, one that can’t be boxed up in a “just-add-water” mix. Pay attention to what you eat, and eat with intention. Eating good, whole food in moderation will make you healthier and happier than abiding to the how many antioxidants and omega 3s are touted on the packaging.
4. “Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.”
Food is meant to be shared and it brings us together. Have an enemy? Break bread with them. Need to work through an argument? Do it over a home cooked meal. Food, friends and family are what keep our bodies and souls nourished.
5. “It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”
Beautiful food doesn’t make itself.
Beyond a few food lessons, it seemed only fitting that I add one of her classic recipes to my repertoire in celebration. She was well known for her calfouti, which is pretty much a fancier version of a Dutch Baby pancake, and with a pint of freshly picked blackberries, I couldn’t resist making a revamped gluten free version made with coconut flour and milk.
Coconut Blackberry Clafouti à la Julia Child
- 1 1/4 cups coconut milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 3 cups blackberries
- powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a blender, blend the coconut milk, 1/4 cup of sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and coconut flour. Grease an 8-cup baking dish and pour in enough batter to cover bottom of the pan with about a 1/4 inch layer.
Bake for about 5-7 minutes, until batter is set but not baked. Distribute the blackberries evenly over the set batter and sprinkle rest of sugar on top. Pour rest of batter over the blackberries and sugar.
Bake 45-60 minutes.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm.