Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What we learned from Julia Child

Pin ItOn a day like today, when a kitchen icon turns 100, it would seem remiss not to write a little something to acknowledge the day.

Fortunately, I have just the story.

Julia Child and I have three things in common: A love for food, a willingness to tackle anything, and an incredible "simpatico" with a husband named Paul. Julia was not only the first television chef in my memory, she was my hero. She could conquer anything, it seemed, and she always did it with a sense of humor.

Julia also appreciated the time and effort that went into great cooking -- and found it completely worthwhile.  As she said:

“Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet.”

Since we seemed to have so much in common, I made an effort to get to know her.

I watched her on television. I read her autobiography.  I perused her cookbooks, including Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which was always a kitchen staple. But, I never felt closer to Julia than when we tackled her recipe for Pâté de Canard en Croûte for a Journal Sentinel tribute that came out right around the time that the Julie/Julia movie was released in 2009.

The recipe was a challenge for numerous reasons, the least of which was that I'd never boned anything in my life, let alone a duck. I didn't even own a boning knife. And I won't stand back and say that I wasn't at least a little bit intimidated.

But, we persisted.

The story begins with our adventure finding a trussing needle in Milwaukee (harder than you'd think!), it continues with our brave attempt to bone a duck and make an impossible pastry, and finally it ends in victory as the duck is stuffed.

If you have a few moments to spare, you might want to peruse our madcap adventures, as they were recorded on the blog.
  1. Pâté de Canard en Croûte Part 1: In Creativity We Truss
  2. Pâté de Canard en Croûte Part 2: You're Gonna Bone What??!! 
  3. Pâté de Canard en Croûte Part 3: That's Just Fowl! And Other French Delicacies
I still look back on that experience as one of the most life-changing I've had so far in the kitchen.  There we were -- Paul and I, side by side -- being pushed to our limits, forced to make peace with our limitations, and privileged to experience an entirely new way of looking at the world of food.

Did it take us three days?  Yeah.
Was it worth it? Hells yes.

Thanks, Julia.

©BURP! Where Food Happens


  1. What a project that was. I sometimes think I'm not adventurous enough in the kitchen. Cooking a whole duck for the first time seemed ambitos enough. As a blogger I should follow Julia's lead and extend myself more, no?

  2. Wow!
    You get major kuddos for doing this.
    My goodness what a feat and what a feast!


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