Saturday, August 15, 2009

Julia Child

I've written about her in previous posts and there is no disputing the fact that she was the original American foodie. In fact, most credit her with singlehandedly leading the movement that would be the pivotal turn in the sophistication of the American palate. She brought her love of French cuisine to the masses and then continued to lead the way as she branched out into all things foodie. Although she never owned or operated a restaurant she spent decades in the public spotlight teaching, writing and learning about food. She is, of course, Julia Child.

I write about her because, like so many of you, I just returned from seeing "Julie and Julia" which, for anyone who is drawn to see it, is really about Julia. For me, it was an endless treat. Firstly, I am a big fan of 1940s design and style. Secondly, Paris is high on my list of top world class cities. For those two alone it was a visual feast. I still can't get over how they used such clever camera angles to turn what is now the Musée d'Orsay in Paris back into the railway station it originally was. Then there is the blog element of it all. Who can forget the thrill of one's first blog comment or the slow realization that there are hundreds, even thousands, on a good day, of people reading and enjoying your blog.

Julia Child. Find what you love and the world will find a way to love you.

I would argue that food is really not the star in this movie, as it is in some others, although it is the overriding theme. I think what really tops the list here is the passion for food, the very thing that these two women had in common. Of course, Julia is legendary. There are very few chefs in Boston who do not have some story about Julia and many vividly recall the doyenne's visit, sometimes unannounced, to their first restaurant. She consistently led an entire country away from the prepackaged, premixed foods so pervasive in suburban homes of the 1950s and 60s. If not for her we may still be predominantly eating those boxes of convenient chemicals.

There are also all the little things that one learns about Julia in this film. For instance, I had no idea that her stature was that of an Amazon. Celebrity Chef Ming Tsai recently said in an interview on Greater Boston that the film was true to the fact that "she was the size of a linebacker". Neither beautiful nor elegant, the gangly food icon is unflinchingly portrayed by Meryl Streep in the film. I also had no idea that her interest in food began rather late in life. It was her enrollment at Le Cordon Bleu, which she fought to get, at the age of thirty that really started her career. She took it up because she was bored and needed "something to do" while her husband worked in the diplomatic corps in Paris.

Meryl Streep as Julia Child.

The other thing I loved was her sense of humor. She laughed at every foible and mistake she made. Determined and dogged, she worked at it, not taking no for an answer, never giving up. While Julie was prone to tears over her mistakes Julia never descended into such self pity. Aspic was just a symbol of the many, little disappointments one will have in life. She had her disappointments but always kept charging on. The last thing that films of this type have for me is that they remind me over and over again that it's through somewhat casual friends that we often find our best opportunities. If it wasn't for a loyal pen pal that Julia corresponded with for years before actually meeting she may never have had her first book published. If she had not been asked to collaborate by two friends in Paris who were desperate she would have never written it. And if it were not for the unmitigated gall of her husband to suggest the clumsy giantess would be ideal for TV, she would have never become world famous.

In former postings, as I mentioned, we've visited the home of Julia Child (just a stone's throw from my own childhood home)and her famous kitchen, now enshrined at The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. It is there, at the end of the film, that Julie leaves an appropriate gift and proclaims: "I love you Julia."

I say we ALL love you Julia.

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