It seems that we can't get enough of Julia Child. Maybe it is because Julia's life story is filled with so many lessons for all of us. As Bob Spitz told the group gathered on Tuesday night to hear him speak about his book Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, she taught us that in mid-life we can reinvent ourselves. At age 40, when she studied French cooking at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and began the journey that would lead to the writing of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking,"she did not even know how to cook. She was 50 years old when her first cookbook was published. And she was 52 when her show "The French Chef" debuted on WGBH in Boston. She had never been on television before and did not even own a television set. It really is amazing to think about.
Julie Robinson and Bob Spitz
On Tuesday night I went to a wonderful event hosted by Julie Robinson of Literary Affairs. We met at Surfas, a restaurant supply and gourmet food purveyor in Culver City, for an evening called "Dearie and Mastering the Art of French Cooking." The title said it all. We would be cooking several dishes from Julia Child's "Mastering The Art of French Cooking" under the supervision of Maite Gomez-Rejon of Art Bites. Afterwards we would sit down to eat the dinner we had prepared, drink some beautiful French wines, and listen to Bob Spitz's warm and affectionate talk about Julia Child. As he happily admitted, he has had a crush on her for a long time.
He told us that he got the opportunity to spend some quality time with her in 1992. He was in Italy working on magazine articles when he got a call from the Italian travel commission. They asked if he would like to escort Julia Child on a trip to Sicily. At that point she was eighty years old. He jumped at the chance and spent three weeks with Julia in Sicily, eating and talking nonstop. It was a life changing experience. If his book reads anything like his warm and humorous talk on Tuesday night --he does a spot-on impersonation of Julia Child -- it will be delightful. I cannot wait to get a copy.
Maite Gomez-Rejon created an exciting menu for us to cook from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"
Simple Green Salad with French Vinaigrette
Celery Root in Mustard Sauce
Chicken Sauteed with Herbs and Garlic
Tomatoes Stuffed with Bread Crumbs, Herbs and Garlic
Potatoes Sauteed in Butter
Fresh Strawberry Tart
And so we chopped, stirred, whisked, sauteed and appreciated the beauty of butter. After all, these recipes were from Julia Child and butter was in almost everything. It made the food taste delicious!
I cheated on the last photo (via here). Our strawberry tart needed more time to set up before having its photo taken. But the strawberry tart (above) from Ina Garten is what ours would have looked like with a bit more time.
By the way, for those of you who live in Los Angeles, Julie Robinson and Maite Gomez-Rejon are local treasures. Julie runs Literary Affairs which puts on stimulating book events with writers and facilitates book groups all around town. Her Beverly Hills Literary Escape is coming up in October, 2013. Maite created Art Bites in order to combine her two passions: art history and cooking. In her cooking classes, she weaves culinary history with hands-on cooking at museums across the country. I have taken a few of her classes and they are always instructive, educational and fun. Like Julia Child, both these women have followed their passions and turned them into a business. I left the event on Tuesday night feeling very inspired!