She was smart, she was likable, unpretentious, incredibly witty, and above all she inspired Americans to cook during a time when tv dinners were the happening thing. Today is Julia Child’s 100th birthday, and I know I don’t stand alone when I say there is no one who has inspired me more than her.
I always knew who Julia was growing up and often watched her shows, but it wasn’t until my days in Paris that I really developed an interest in her. On my first day of culinary school I vividly remember coming to a quick halt in the middle of a large room as I spotted the framed picture of her on the wall. I had heard something about her going to Le Cordon Bleu, but that was the extent of my knowledge.
It was at that moment when my interest began to peak. I wanted to know her and I feel as if I do. It’s hard not to love her once you read her books. She had that warm, down-to-earth appeal about her that made you feel as if you were cooking right along side her. She made mistakes on the camera and just kept going. When things went wrong she would make a joke and continue cooking. (Here’s one of my favorite videos of her on David Letterman). And she always reminded us that it doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy or expensive. It just has to be good food.
Happy 100th Birthday, Julia. May your spirit continue to inspire all to learn how to cook good food and with a good sense of humor!
A few of my favorite Julia quotes:
“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appetit.”
On never apologizing for what you serve: “Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from our mistakes.”
And I love this passage that Dianne Jacob reminded me of from her book, The Way to Cook:
“In this book, I am very conscious of calories and fat…An imaginary shelf labeled INDULGENCES is a good idea. It contains the best butter, jumbo-size eggs, heavy cream, marbled steaks, sausages and pates, hollandaise and butter sauces, french butter-cream fillings, gooey chocolate cakes, and all those lovely items that demand disciplined rationing. Thus, with items high up and almost out of reach, we are ever conscious that they are not everyday foods. They are for special occasions, and when that occasion comes we can enjoy every mouthful.”
Sweet Corn Bisque with Wild Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, and Crumbled Bacon
Sweet Corn Bisque
- 8 strips bacon
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 serrano chile pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 cups fresh sweet corn, cooked and cut off cob
- one large sprig thyme
- one bay leaf
- dash Tabasco sauce
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup half/half (plus more if needed)
- salt and pepper
- 1 lb assorted mushrooms
- 8 oz soft goat cheese
- Bacon, from above
- fresh chives, chopped
In medium-large dutch oven (or heavy bottom pot) cook the bacon over med-high heat. You may need to do this in two batches. Remove cooked bacon and set aside. Drain grease from pot, but leave the brown bits at the bottom.
Turn heat down to med-low and add the onions and chile pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes, scrapping the bits from the bacon at the bottom of the pot. Add garlic, continue to cook for one minute. Add the corn, thyme, bay leaf, tabasco, and chicken stock. Mix well to combine and then simmer for 15-20 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, wash and stem and chop mushrooms. Heat a little olive oil in a sautee pan and add mushrooms. Cook for about 10 minutes or until mushrooms begin to slightly brown. Add salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
Once the soup is finished remove from heat, and remove the thyme and bay leaf. Add the half and half. With a handheld blender (or a regular blender) blend the soup, being very careful as it is still hot. Blend until smooth, but leave a slight bit of texture to the soup. You may have to add more half and half if the soup is too thick. Season well with salt and pepper.
Pour soup into bowl, top with mushrooms, a large spoonful of crumbled goat cheese, the reserved bacon and chopped chives. Enjoy!