Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Guest blog: Julia Child at 100, by Linda Thornburg

English: American cook, author, and television...
American cook, author, and tv icon (Aug 15, 1912–Aug 13, 2004)
English: Julia Child's Kitchen on display at t...
Julia Child's kitchen on display at the National Museum of American History
Daedalus Books & Music is celebrating Julia Child’s 100th birthday in style with a feast of items. There is something for every palate: for starters, succulent memoir and saucy biography; for the main course the cookbooks, slow roasted to perfection and basted liberally with TV episodes; followed by salade verte of letters “laced with a lightly acidic vinaigrette;” finished with les fromages, from espionage to cat fancy.  All you need do is BYOB—bring your own Bordeaux.
I wonder what Julia Child would request for her birthday supper if she were around to celebrate her centennial. Her 80th birthday was a huge bash, celebrated in four cities—Washington DC, Boston, New York and LA—by dozens of the world’s most renowned chefs, each outdoing themselves, for $200 to $350 a plate dinners for a couple of thousand of Julia’s closest friends.
The DC repast sported three cakes, with sugary versions of Julia’s five books, the seal of L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes, a wire whisk, and a replica of her Cambridge house, months in the creation. The LA extravaganza began with 60 different hors d’oeuvres. “This was no feed for amateurs, the faint of heart or those watching their cholesterol,” quipped Merrill Shindler. In New York, Julia was given a four-foot wire whisk covered in roses and pearls. (p. 469 Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child, Noel Riley Fitch)
On second thought, she might like to revisit the dinner she hosted for her husband Paul’s 50th:
“Paul chose the wines from our cave to match an elaborate menu that Chef Bugnard and I composed: amuse-gueules au fromage (hot pates feuilletees topped with cheese, served in the living room with Krug champagne); rissolettes de foie gras Carisse; filet de boeuf Matignon (served with a nearly perfect Bordeaux, Chateau Chauvin 1929); les fromages (Camembert, Brie de Melun, Epoisses, Roquefort, Chevre); fruits rafraichis; gateau de demi-siecle; liqueurs, hundred-year-old Cognac; Havana cigars and Turkish cigarettes.” (p. 129-130, My Life in France, Julia Child)
The romantic in me thinks she would request a meal more simple and more profound, the one that began her love affair with French cuisine, her first lunch with Paul at La Couronne: portugaises (oysters), sole meuniere, salade verte, fromage blanc, a bottle of Pouilly-Fumé, and café filter.
We began our lunch with a half-dozen oysters on the half-shell. I was used to bland oysters from Washington and Massachusetts, which I never cared much for, but this planner of portugaises had a sensational briny flavor and a smooth texture that was entirely new and surprising. The oysters were served with rounds of…a pale rye bread, with a spread of unsalted butter.
 Paul had decided on the sole meuniere. It arrived whole: a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top. The waiter carefully placed the platter in front of us, stepped back and said, “Bon appétit!”
I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth....The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinctive taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter. I chewed slowly and swallowed. It was a morsel of perfection....Along with our meal, we happily downed a whole bottle of Pouilly-Fumé. (p. 18-19, My Life in France, Julia Child)
Wherever you are, Julia, and whatever your request—surely there is a heavenly meal with friends awaiting—Happy Birthday and “Bon appétit!”

If you could share this birthday meal with Julia Child, what would you choose?

Linda Thornburg is a writer and film director with a broken oven and dreams of fine cuisine.


  1. I would keep it simple: fresh baked bread, lots of cheese, and wine...lots of wine. Then we would watch Julie and Julia and she would tell me what she thought of the movie.

    Then Stanley Tucci would show up!

    1. Prof Grubbly-PlankAugust 14, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      That sounds good to me! I would add something with dark chocolate at the end, though.

    2. Me too. Maybe some spicy dark chocolate.

    3. I would love some fresh baked bread and wine, as long as it's red.

      I wonder if I would offend Julia by not using any butter...

    4. Haha Stanley Tucci. Julie and Julia always makes me so hungry. I get sad that Julia disapproved of the blog.

    5. I didn't know she disapproved. That turns the whole movie watching experience with her into a potentially negative experience...But maybe we could win her over with our yellowtail (it's such a bargain).

      Does she just not like blogs? DID she not like blogs?

    6. I agree with Julia! I never read the blog but if it's anything like the book then it's a waste of space. So pointless and whiny. Stanley Tucci on the other hand is not a waste of space. He would be a welcome addition to any dinner party especially if dressed as his character from The Hunger Games.

  2. I'm going to Hambone's for dinner! I'll bring the 100-year old cognac (more likely a 2011 "vintage" yellowtail, haha) and turkish cigarettes... Stanley Tucci is only invited if he dresses like Puck!!

    1. In Turkey, after the war, my uncle would trade a pack of American cigarettes for 2 or 3 packs of Turkish cigarettes, or for a room, or for a meal. That's what he says anyway.

      Did Stanley Tucci play puck? I didn't know that...he was just so good in D wears P...

    2. why are they so good? maybe no nasty additives.

  3. I've had 50-year-old cognac and, croyez-moi, the extra demi-siecle is mere ostentation.

  4. I just looked up the dish Sole meunière, and how to make it, doesn't seem too complicated, Pan-fried fish with a nice brown sauce, YUM!!!! All this being said unfortunately the Sole species is a bit over fished, so no beuno on that as a meal.

  5. I agree with Hambone, baked bread and lots of cheese and wine and ofcourse dark chocolate. I don't think I could ever get tired of that meal. :-)

  6. What, no veggies? How about asparagus with hollandaise? And a salade nicoise?
    Turkish cigarettes are very strong and unfiltered. I had a relative who smoked them. Lived to 90. We called him yellownail...but never to his face.

  7. The "feast" that intrigued me most was a whole foie gras (one and a half pounds) marinated in Madeira and cognac, stuffed with truffles, encased in some sort of sleeve with "veins of fat," then poached (I think) in the wine and eaten with spoons. No doubt right from the dish. Undoubtedly with bread and wine. Yum.