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Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Patrick Sun, Aug 13, 2004.
She passed away last night. She was 91. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3694953/?GT1=4529
We have every one of her cookbooks and Mastering the Art of French Cooking has been replaced in our kitchen twice. This was the first cookbook that I thought really taught beginners how to cook—that is the reason behind the technique. Making a dish from this, allows even amateurs such as myself to be able to construct endless variations on a theme. It is (for me) one of three indispensable cookbooks on Western cooking—the other two being Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking and the Rombauers’ American classic, The Joy of Cooking. My wife, son and I were lucky enough to hear her speak during Fourth of July celebrations in Faneuiel Hall about 12 years ago. Truly a legand.
Truly a culinary institution. RIP
Lew, did you try the 130 year old Fanuiel Hall institution called Durgin-Park? Nothing says New England food like leaky pipes, communal seating and ancient, pissed off waitresses who yell at you to "hurry up and order", "scootch over" and "don't put those bags on the seat!". Good food, too.
I’ve eaten there many times—no doubt the best oyster stew I’ve ever had (thought the last time I was there it was not on the menu). One of those deceptively simple dishes that is incredibly hard to pull off well: nothing but oysters, milk (perhaps some butter and cream) and simple seasonings—anything false in a dish like this shows up immediately—everything must be fresh and of the highest quality and a sure hand in the kitchen or it is an ordinary dish. When it all comes together, nothing but perfection. The clam chowder is very fine. Everyone raves about their prime rib, though I’ve never tried it, so far sticking to seafood. On the desert side, I’ve never managed to get past the Indian Pudding. In fact I was eating there once (one does not dine in Durgin_Park) with a colleague and she asked for Indian pudding. The waitress told her to, “share his”. The waitresses certainly have a well deserved reputation. Another time, while sitting at one of the communal tables, a couple of guys who were a shade on the rowdy side were mildly acting out and our waitress turned to me and said, more than loudly enough for everyone to hear, “you see what I have to put up with.”
Bless Julia Child for liberating America from the horrors of ham w/pineapple rings and bell peppers stuffed with rice and ground beef. She will be missed.
This was a staple at Thanksgiving at my house, made off a 30 year old molasses stained recipe insert from a Durgin-Park beanpot. My dad used to cook it in a ceramic crock my grandmother bought at D-P, sadly they do not sell these anymore, just the beanpots. My dad also cooked D-P's cornbread every Thanksgiving, from the same stained recipe insert. Their bean recipe is the best I've ever had - just like the stew, it is simple, perfect and easy to mess up if you start getting fancy. To get back to the thread, I saw a show once where Julia made Indian Pudding and mentioned that Durgin-Park had been making it for over 100 years and it was JFK's favorite desert. She contemplated serving it with clotted cream, but said any self-resepcting New Englander had it plain or with a single soop of vanilla ice cream.
There are four great culinary traditions which influence world-class food. Without question, French cuisine reigns as the most refined of the four and it remains the foundation of western cooking. Not saying it's the best, just the most refined. Nearly everyone who cooks in Europe and North America uses French techniques and recipe construction though they may not know it. French cooking techniques are found in kitchens from Paris to Katmandu and this is no small part to Julia Child's influence. She eschewed the grande cuisine of France as too heavy and too complex instead championing the "peasant" foods of France such as Coquilles St. Jacques, Croque Monsieur, Crepes, Bouillabaise, and Coq au Vin; standard, even familiar items on any menu where they appear. Prior to Child, French restaurants were expensive, snobbish, places only rich people in big cities visited. But more important than the recipes are the techniques in choosing ingredients, methods of heating and chilling, cutting, even how we serve our courses and choose side dishes. What we think of as a typical American or Continental meal has basis in French cuisine. Julia Child taught the average American how to use and create dishes for any occasion. Prior to Child, middle-American cookery was a fairly dull and repetetive affair with regional dishes rarely found outside their tradtional state or region. American cuisine itself was seen as so derivative that anything other than a banana split or cheeseburger would be scoffed at on the other side of the pond. Today you can find grasshopper pies in Maine, lobster in New Mexico, bagels in Utah, poi in Florida, and jambalaya in Alaska. American cuisine is rapdily rising in esteem around the world as chefs capitalize on the remarkable diversity of culture, ingredients, and techniques found in America's recipe boxes. Julia Child sparked this revolution. She made Americans learn about ease in the kitchen, gave the average housewife (back in the day) confidence to be adventurous, to not need to rely solely on recipes. Child taught that knowing ingredients and technique was enough for anyone to approach a kitchen and make something great out of what was in the refrigerator. Without her, we might still be in the era of liverwurst and cheez-wiz on a Triscuit. If your mother or grandmother didn't have family recipes to share with you then you learned from Fanny Farmer and corporate-sponsored recipes heavily featuring their products. Most of it was awful. Yet she did more than this. We are now familiar with Thai, Japanese, Southwest, and Indian. Northern and Southern Italian has left the east coast and added dishes to an American lexicon that once barely knew what spaghetti was. Child taught Americans to care about food and be adventurous. She gave legitimacy to people who wanted to be chefs at a time when any man who wanted to do something more than grill or make an omelette (a french dish ) was viewed with some suspicion. Child was a great chef. While she frequently championed the simpler dishes she was not above occasionally trying something difficult and outside the studio, she could tackle the most difficult dishes with aplomb. She studied regional French cuisine with a passion and was extremely well-versed in wine. For her achievements, France awarded her, La Commanderie des Cordons Bleus de France, the highest award a French chef can receive and never before bestowed on a woman. This was no small feat. She has been on television, nearly continuously, since 1962. Child took her audiences on trips to France and regularly had world-famous chefs as guests always graciously allowing them the spotlight while they did their thing. Though she will be missed, she had a long life and already three generations of chefs, amateur and professional, have taken-up her enthusiasm leading American and world palates to places and dishes scarecly imaginable only a decade ago (I can buy frozen Thai pizza in a rural supermarket!). Her spark has become a bonfire. Tonight, let's raise a glass to Julia and thank her for rescuing us from Shepard's Pie, lifeless boiled vegetables, and tuna casserole! Thank you Julia! P.S.- I think this thread should have stayed in the TV forum, she has won an Emmy and a Peabody.
Cheers, Jason. I have an 87 Wagner's port that will have to see a glass tonight. Here's to Julia!
One minor side track Jason (and this is not a challenge, as I’m interested in your perspective), but I would have said French, Chinese and Indian are the great and influential culinary traditions. Of course all of these (and especially the later two) are incredibly diverse, but so radically different in their fundamental approach towards food and its preparation that for me they constitute the base. But then I’m always looking to expand the base.
And to everyone in the thread—a bit too hot for vintage port in Texas, but I think that we may have a simple soufflé and a better than usual bottle of red as a nod in her direction. Of course we learned how to make soufflés from Julia.
Those are three. The fourth is Italian/Mediterranean. Remember that when Catherine de Medici became queen of France she introduced not only the fork (thank God), but a number of dishes that were to heavily influence French cooking, particularly sauces. Prior to that there had always been some cross-fertilization, particularly between southern France and northern of Italy. Other greats are Thai, Japanese, Scandinavian (a personal favorite of mine via Marcus Samuelson at Aquavit), and Southwest/Mexican but again, they're all derivatives from French, Chinese, and Italio-Mediterranean to some degree. In Europe, from the time of Charlamagne to the French Revolution and beyond, France was considered the height of culture in the other courts of Europe who strained to emulate it. Though not the most powerful for quite a long time, French became the language of foreign courts, its manners and arts copied all over. In the court of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Sweden, Russia, nearly everywhere, one would find French chefs serving food to the wealthiest. Native dishes might be found here and there, but largely it was France who was copied-- except in Italy, where the prosperous Renaissance north was just as refined and gracious as the French courts and whose style of food, itself a derivative of Roman, Greek, and Middle-eastern, went on to influence much of southern Europe and the Mediterranean world including Spain. Spain was influenced by French as well but itself went on to form the basis of Southwestern American, Caribbean, Mexican, and South American cuisines. The old saw holds true: People like to do what the rich people do. If a dish was known to be favored by a monarch then the bourgeoise would tell their servants to make it and the servants would make the dish (or a variation of it) for thier own families. The national dish of Mexico, mole poblano (which I love), was invented for the Emperor Maximilian and he liked it so much that he served it at dinners, those diners served it in their houses, and so and so on until it had spread everywhere. Since so many courts in the Old World were emulating France, French techniques spread all over Europe even if the ingredients, due to lack of refrigeration or growing climate, weren't the same at all. Colonial influences spread French cooking all over the world and even today you can detect the French influence in Vietnamese, Haitian, and Creole dishes. If you're a fan of Asian cooking I highly suggest you seek out some recipes from the Peranakan community in Singapore. The Peranakan are Chinese traders who settled in Singapore and then intermarried with the Malay and Indian populations. The food is a remarkable fusion of Indian, Southeast Asian, and Chinese. If it sounds like it could be delicious take that feeling and magnify it oh, say, 100x. Peranakan cuisine is remarkable. Though the traditional, centuried-old family techniques and recipes are fading now in light of modern society, some effort is being made to save this remarkable cuisine from oblivion.
I can remember watching Julia Child for about as long as I can remember watching TV. I was always struck by the fact that she seemed to be a genuinely nice person. I then saw that she had been in the OSS (forerunner of the CIA) during WWII, I thought that was also very cool. I see that the food network will be doing a tribute to Ms. Child on August 22 . I hope they show the same class she always did. IMHO Emeril, Jaques, Bobby, The Iron Chefs, etc. all owe their fame and livelihood to Julia Child.
There is a story in the local paper recalling Julia Child's trips to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), here in Hyde Park. 'A nutritionally-minded student asked the famous chef the secret to her longevity. Julia shot back: "Red meat and gin." Menu for tonight - Gimlet or Martini (not sure which yet) Rare fillet mignon seasoned with salt and pepper Baked potato I think I'll be toasting Julia tonight (Bombay Sahppire, of course)
I've been meaning to hit-up the CIA for a decent meal sometime. I did a tour of it once. It was very interesting but they don't give you any samples of the food at the end so I spent all morning starving myself silly being subjected to the wonderful aroma coming from all the kitchens. I hated life about then. But it is nice to see so many grads stay in the area. I think, for a relatively rural area, the Hudson Valley is blessed with an unusually high number of excellent restaurants. Hell, my mom lives next door to a restaurant run by two CIA grads!
RIP, Julia. I remembered Dan Ackroyd playing her on a very funny skit on Saturday Night Live back in the 1970s. Crawdaddy
It is very good indeed Jason, though I somewhat question how much influence Indian cooking had on the Straits Chinese (the Peranakan community is also located on the Malay peninsula (mostly on the west coast or along the Straits of Malaca—hence the appellation, ‘Straits Chinese’.) To be sure there is plenty of Indian influence in the food of Singapore (and in Malaysia), but I see that more in dishes outside the traditional Peranakan tradition—but then I might be wrong—maybe Yee-Ming will weigh in with some observations). The Straits Chinese lived in the area long enough so that many of them spoke Bahasa, rather than a Chinese dialect. The more recent Chinese immigrants don’t speak Bahasa, but one of the Chinese dialects. Of course in Singapore, with the emphasis on learning at least two languages, many of the younger descendents of the Straits Chi8nese are now learning Mandarin. But when I lived there, I knew a few who had only studied Bahasa and English in school and did not really know any Chinese dialects at all. While I can see why you list Italio/Mediterrianian, but for me, Italian techniques and concepts are either derived from the French, or where they are not, have not had as far reaching influence on other cuisines as ‘the big three’. And while I love Mediterranean cooking, it is not for me as complex, subtle and varied as the others—Italian cuisine excepted—but then, for that, I think that there is a great deal of French influence. And as Anthony Bourdain writes in Kitchen Confidential when he was cooking in an Italian restaurant, ‘It’s not French’. (my wife and I are on our second copy of Classic Italian Cooking—so don’t think I don’t love the food). Of course the debate can be waged endlessly.
Actually, what we consider French cuisine was heavilly influenced by Italian, particularly Florentine, cooking. This all dates back to when Catherine de Medici brought over her Florentine cooks to the French court when she married into the royal family.
Exact! And no arguement. Just that the techniques and concepts have evolved a bit since then--both in Italy and France.