Friday, August 28, 2009

for love of julia

Hi Guys-

Well, it’s happened, five years after her death and thirty eight years after it was first published, Julia Child’s quintessential French cookbook, ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ has made it to the New York Times bestseller list.

To this day, it remains the only cookbook to explain how to create authentic French dishes in American kitchens with American ingredients. By teaching techniques of French cooking, Julia Child singlehandedly turned American housewives into gourmet cooks.

I used to race home from school to watch old reruns of Julia (as I called her) cooking everything from soufflé to lobster (yikes, that was awful, I must say). She was masterful and goofy, funny and wise, graceful and clumsy and I loved her and her cooking. I was hooked, something that many people who make their livings in kitchens will admit.

I remember meeting Julia for the first time. I was brand new to television and we were both at a national public television event. I was dying to meet her. As I stood in a hallway one day, lo and behold, Julia Child was walking toward me in all her height and eccentric splendor. She was with a young woman and as she strode past me, she said,’ Now remember, I want to meet that new young woman who doesn’t cook with butter.’

I wanted to scream, ‘That’s me!!!!’ But I didn’t. I walked up and introduced myself in a civilized way, completely starstruck. Julia was warm and cordial and asked if we could talk about her favorite ingredient. The young woman with her warned that she had about ten minutes to spare. Two hours later, (well after I stopped picturing Dan Akroyd’s famous portrayal of her…), Julia asked me if she should give up butter for her health. We both laughed as she realized that at 87 years of age, she was doing something right.

That meeting sticks with me because I remember being most impressed by her love of all food…of course, only good food. She had no time or patience for junk food of any kind. I often wonder what she would think of the swill we have peddled to us as food. Not much, I suspect.

And so now a movie has been made about her greatest recipes, based on a blog by a young woman whose life was going nowhere and decided to cook her way through Julia’s masterpiece cookbook. And now this same bible of cooking has finally become a bestseller.

It’s interesting to me that in a time when fewer and fewer people are cooking that Julia’s homage to great food has risen to such heights. And at a time when diabetes, obesity and heart disease are epidemics, people are buying a book that celebrates all the foods we now know do not serve our health.

Is it to own a bit of history? A bit of Julia? Is it because Meryl Streep so beautifully channeled our godmother of cooking? Does this new status for ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ mean a return to cooking from scratch?

And what about the ingredients so essential to Julia’s way of cooking. Butter, lard, organ meats, cured meats, all manner of heart clogging foods are falling out of fashion. They are, aren’t they? We want healthier fare, don’t we?

We can’t afford to cook the way Julia did. We don’t live in the innocent 1950’s when food was authentic and not manufactured, when butter wasn’t laced with growth hormones, antibiotics and steroids, when beef was grass-fed and thereby lower in saturated fat. We no longer live in the world where the cook of the house shops daily for the freshest ingredients and cooks from scratch. We live in a world of fast food, junk food, deep-fried oreos and 600-calorie coffee drinks. We live in world that is literally groaning under our collective mass and is slowly dying from the way we produce and manufacture food.

Julia learned her love of food and cooking when food was simply food and we cooked it and ate it. In our modern world, food is entertainment…we watch chefs working against the clock cooking food that we can’t even identify and where the new style of high cuisine is sous-vide, a method by which food is vacuum packed and then cooked at low temperatures for a long time in boil bags after which some searing or other ‘finish’ cooking used to complete the dish. Really, back to boil bags? And we worship the chefs using this new method, from Thomas Keller to Charlie Trotter.

When did we lose touch with all that Julia stood for: actually learning to cook and mastering that art? Whether you agree with her choice of ingredients or not…and I mostly don’t (and she would disagree with me that healthy food is necessary. She believed that all food, in moderation, was the key), we all have to respect what she stood for and the gift she gave us. She taught us that the kitchen wasn’t a scary place reserved for white coats and French accents. She taught us that anyone could cook.

It’s time to head back to the kitchen, dust off your copy of ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking;’ adapt the recipes to create healthy meals and pay homage to our great Julia by mastering your own art of cooking.

Buon Appetit!



Joy said...

Good morning,

I watched your show for the first time this week with the chocolate cupcakes and appple muffins with gooey white icing. I NEED THESE RECIPES immediately and they were not listed on the website, even though you said they would be there.
HELP!! I have to get these recipes for some college students to show them junk food can be HEALTHY.

Nicole said...

Hello Christina,

My daughter Amber and I were thrilled to meet you recently at Red Fire Farm in MA. We have learned so much from your show and book. It has become a family affair. We are cookling and eating so much healthier, and really loving it. We recently made your brownie recipe. YUM! Amber says she would like to be a chef when she grows up, which made me think of your blog about Julia. Someday Amber will remember that you and your show inspired her to cook. Your creating a generation of healthy eaters. She even teaches her friends what she has been learning, and they really are curious and interested. I think if kids can be reached young enough, things really can change for the future. I love what you do, and feel like any little bit we do to teach our children will benfit all of us for tommorow.

Thank you

Barbara Allen Moore said...

Yes I also watched Julia. As a new wife and mother and then living in town where cable TV was available I was caught in Julia's energy and enthusiasm with cooking. I was watching an old program in PBS last week and it was where she was talking about choosing a chicken for roasting. I laughed so hard. She had all these hens lined up on the counter. And she was having a great time. She gave me an interest in cooking and a love for trying new foods and processses. Thats why I so enjoy so many cookbooks and cooking shows. She opened my head and heart to new adventures in food. Yes if I opened her cookbook now I'd make alterations to the recipes, ignore the critters and go for the veg and baking goods, but still she was fantastic in her love of life. I still catch her Baking with Julia show. I envy you getting to meet her.

Karen said...


You can find these recipes by going to Current Recipes (under Recipes & Food Tips on the Home Page)and then clicking on "PBS Series 9 Recipes". It has all the recipes listed - you just how to scroll down. (It will open up in a .pdf file so you need Adobe Acrobat reader.)

Good Luck!

Karen said...

oops ... "have" to scroll down not "how"!

christy said...

I just saw the movie and it inspired me to cook more delicious vegan food that make people go "Yum". We really need to get more meat-eaters trying gourmet vegan/macro food so we can dispel the myth that veg food is bland and boring. I'm tempted to go through her book and healthify/veganize the recipes.


Melanie said...


I just saw your show for the first time 2 weeks ago, and now it seems it is not airing on the Create channel!!! Please tell me - is your show still airing? What network is it on?? I was so very excited to have happened onto your cooking show! Cooking with rice syrup instead of sugar and cooking with whole foods and clean products is exactly what I've been looking for! No one else I know does this!!
Please tell me what network your show is airing on.
Also, please tell me the name and manufacturer of the solid rice syrup product you used to frost your cupcakes.
Thanks for your time!

Emily said...

It's on our Create channel in Cincinnati on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2:00 and 8:00 pm/am. It might be on at the same or a similar time where you are? Might try checking your local listing on Create's website:

Ree said...

Hi Christina,

I just noticed your show isn't on Create TV in the Chicago area anymore. Please let us know where we can locate your wonderful show once again. I really hope it's not off the air! Love what you do.

Karen said...

I also noticed that the show is no longer on Create - KCET Orange (Los Angeles area) any more.

My daughter and I were so disappointed when we turned on the TV to watch some yummy veg*n cooking and instead there was some one preparing veal chops! Ugh!

I already sent an e-mail to Create telling them that we want Christina Cooks back!

Here's the link where I sent my e-mail:

Ree said...

I emailed Create TV also. There is no other vegan cooking show so they just have to bring it back. Let's hope they listen to us!

Barbara Allen Moore said...

Hey Folks! My experience with PBS stations is that they periodically switch out programs. Christina should be back on with a new season of shows soon I hope. They also have the habit of changing times and days without notice so be on the look out. The recipes you are talking about are on her website as Karen says but they are also in her Cooking the Whole Foods Way cookbook. I did print off the Season 9 recipes before I got the book and several from the archives. Create says that there is another vegan chef but I've not seen her. We recently ordered brown rice syrup in 3 flavors and the barley malt from Suzanne's Specialties through the link on Christina's website that's also where to get the creamy whipped brown rice syrup that she used for frosting. My family tells me that the raspberry syrup is very yummy on blueberries and strawberries. Good eating everyone and may the force give us Christina back soon!


Christina Pirello said...

hi joy-

here are the cupcakes...sorry to be so slow to respond.

Orange-Scented Chocolate Cupcakes

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup semolina flour
½ cup cocoa powder, Dutch processed is best
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Generous pinch sea salt
½ cup avocado oil
1 cup brown rice syrup
¾ cup soy or rice milk
1 teaspoon brown rice vinegar
2 ounces coarsely chopped non-dairy, grain sweetened chocolate chips
2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Chocolate Frosting
1 cup non-dairy, grain-sweetened chocolate chips
Scant 1/4 cup soy or rice milk
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
Grated orange zest, for decoration

Preheat oven to 350o and line a 12-cup muffin tin with papers.
Whisk together flours, cocoa powder, baking powder and sea salt. Whick together oil, rice syrup, soy or rice milk and vinegar until smooth. Mix wet ingredients into dry to create a smooth batter. Fold in chopped chocolate and orange zest, spoon evenly into cupcake cups and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops of the cupcakes spring back to the touch.
Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle the cupcakes. Remove from the tin and cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the frosting while the cupcakes cool. Place chocolate in heat-resistant bowl. Bring soy or rice milk and rice syrup to a rolling boil and pour over chocolate. Whisk until thick and smooth. Cover loosely and Sset aside for 30-40 minutes to set frosting. Whisk to loosen frosting and spread over the top of each cupcake, garnishing with a sprinkle of orange zest. Makes 12 cupcakes.