I grew up watching Julia Child on PBS. Back then, she basically was the only game in town, as far as shows about food were concerned. Since my own mother could not cook or bake, Julia really became my role model.
I loved observing Julia’s every move as she de-boned a chicken or rolled out a dough for French bread. She used a lot of French terms on her shows, and since I was taking French classes in school, her small references to those culinary terms in French just made learning so much fun!
What I loved most about Julia was that she was not trying to be perfect like some chefs we see on TV or in culinary schools. She did not hold herself as if she had an attitude. She was so down to earth and REAL. Everyone can relate to that, because no one and I MEAN NO ONE is perfect. Even a Master Chef makes mistakes if only on occasion.
When I was taping the DVD series to my first book “About Professional Baking” I remember teaching how to make parchment cake circles to fit into a round cake pan, and during my first attempt the circle was slightly too large and needed to be trimmed. My publisher immediately wanted me to re-do it so that it would come out perfectly on camera. I refused and told him why.
Often when a culinary student is just learning how to make a parchment circle, the parchment circle can come out too large. It is no big deal to fix it and a student SHOULD know how. All you have to do is re-fold the circle and trim it with some scissors.
On my DVD I was trying to show any student who makes a mistake that it is in fact fixable and no one, not even an experienced pastry chef is above making mistakes. After all, this is life! My creating the circle perfectly would not have taught the student how to troubleshoot.
I am reminded of imperfections when Julia famously dropped a chicken on the floor while taping a show. That scene could have been re-taped, but it was not. Why? I believe it was to teach the viewer that no one , not even the GREAT Julia Child was perfect.
That lesson really rubbed off on me. I wrote to Julia when I was a young teenager, and even her response had a few cross-outs in it. That’s how I knew that she and SHE alone, had answered my letter. I still have that letter and cherish it.
So as I remember Julia, it is not just for her easy going manner and her spectacular mastery of French cuisine, it is for her act of being human and imperfect. She was showing that she was one of us, and that anyone can master the art of French cooking. I love her for teaching me the best lesson of all! Bon Appetit!