Posts Tagged Canning project
The French Chef, Julia Child’s iconic television show, had its debut on February 11, 1963, on WGBH, Boston, only 24 years after the first, official television broadcast and 13 years after the first color broadcast in the United States. Mrs. Child, it would seem, is a pioneer beyond the kitchen and could it be that hers was the very first reality TV show?
“Nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should.”
Until the 60′s, in many cases, most sitcoms and information broadcasts were filmed live. Many a prankster has delighted in these circumstances in television studios across America. Bloopers, then, had an immediate audience. What we see on You Tube today is a variation on the theme, an afterthought, so to speak. Now, consider a live cooking show. For a perfectionist, this would leave no room for error; for Julia Child, it meant room for grace, abandon, humility and more than a pinch of humor.
“One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.”
How do you honor the most internationally acclaimed and recognized chef, one whose kitchen, where she filmed three of her popular cooking shows, is a permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History? How do you honor the woman whose work and name are readily equated with the words icon, pioneer, classy dame and brave? Even people of my generation, who are old enough to be called “granny,” feel immensely humbled by the journey, the persona, the joy that was Julia Child. In 1966, Time Magazine dubbed her, “Our Lady of the Ladle.” Playful choice of words? Yes, but tremendously respectful as well.
The lady with the ladle holds an entire harvest in her hands, one she has shaped into a meal to fill the guests at her table with all the nourishment, all the care, all the affection, all the invigorating colors and aromas, all the loving labor that can only pour forth from a giving heart. This is not the diminutive image of the woman toiling in the kitchen; it is the personification of a level of nurturing that only a few possess.
“In this line of work…you keep right on till you’re through.”
What would it be like to do a canning project with Julia Child? Have you ever seen her show? She begins one thing, gets it going to a certain point, drops the spoon in the dish and promptly side-steps to the left to get another part of the process going. She is at once organized and carefree, creating order out of pure spontaneity… or is it the other way around?
“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
I would have loved to see Julia Child make fresh tomato sauce with a Squeezo. I can imagine her pushing the fresh tomatoes through while already distracted by the next steps of the process, her vivid, creative mind jumping ahead almost as if she could have an out-of-body experience while standing right there talking to you and I and turning the handle on the Squeezo.
“The dough takes care of itself… While you cannot speed up the process, you can slow it down at any point by setting the dough in a cooler place …then continue where you left off, when you are ready to do so. In other words, you are the boss of that dough. ”
How much of her demeanor in front of the camera applied to her entire life? How much of it applies to ours? Take the above quote, for example. We cannot speed up an idea or a project that has its own natural momentum, but we can choose to pause instead, just long enough to ensure we are still on the right track and, most importantly, just long enough to actually notice what is happening and perhaps even stand in awe.
“I don’t think about whether people will remember me or not. I’ve been an okay person. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve taught people a thing or two. That’s what’s important.”
Julia Child began her adult life with a dream to become a writer. In 1930, she enrolled at Smith College, Massachusetts, with this goal in mind. She later joined the advertising department at W & J Sloane, a prestigious home furnishings company, eventually to be fired from this position. The reason: “Gross insubordination.” Now this sounds like the mark of great, exuberant character, and a tipping point!
“I think every woman should have a blowtorch.”
Thus I see Julia Child’s abandon with food as a metaphor. It is the signature of a woman, and human being, who does not make excuses for who she is and what she creates, but rather flows with it with grace and without arrogance. She would have made a fantastic sauce with that Squeezo, and a fantastic mess to clean up in the kitchen when she was done, but everything then found its proper place again, because abandon can only arise from the heart of one who is also deeply knowledgeable and grounded.
“I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make… Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is vile,…then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile- and learn from her mistakes.”
Finally, I leave you with this delightful excerpt from an appearance on the David Letterman Show. Happy 100th birthday, Mrs. Child. I would have loved to have known you.
Honors of notice:
1993 - First woman inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame.
2000 - France’s highest honor: the Legion d’Honneur.
Julia Child, on Biography.com (Excellent video clips)