By: LJ Bury
Julia Child is in the Kitchen
I am talking, of course, about THE Julia Child, who started out with a humble little TV show with fumbles, bumbles and kitchen fires. And I’m guessing the one we all recognize within ourselves from time to time. Guilty here in Estero.
In my early cooking trials, I would read recipes the same way I read fairytales. At the end I’d think, “Nope, not possible.” Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo. But now I am beyond magic wand fantasies and have become a decent cook — wasn’t always the case. I used to hate when I’d go to the kitchen for food, and all I’d find were “ingredients.” I’m not the first person to say that, actually. Some say the only reason they have a kitchen is because it came with the house! A cliché I know, but for some, it fits.
Did anyone else grow up thinking the blaring smoke alarm was notice that dinner was ready? That and the unmistakable aroma of six-degrees-from-anything-edible was being served? (Bacon, anyone?) Like Julia, I’ve had my share of fires in the kitchen. Here’s one that lit up my memory. No one told me early in my “wifery” (yes I make up words) that when roasting a turkey, you had to first take the paper wrapped giblets and muck out of its cavity. Didn’t think anything lived in there. Alarm sounded. People heard the “dinner bell” and gathered for dinner. That’s one Thanksgiving where all the sides were the meal. We all said grace anyway as the turkey was trotted into the garbage. I also learned a valuable lesson that day: my fire extinguisher didn’t work.
Julia also had challenges with her knives…haven’t we all? There will be blood. Carving a whole chicken into its infinite parts, I swear requires a degree in surgery. Okay, the chicken’s on the cutting board. First cut in, and the chicken slips like a rocket onto the floor. No one noticed except my dog Pepper who rushed in like he heard Fifi was in heat. He grabbed a piece and bee-lined out to bury it — saved for a peckish moment, I’m guessing. “Hey, get back here thief…” clearly a reflex yell since no way would retrieval be an option. Okay, no one will notice a small piece missing, so I retrieve the impaired fowl from the floor, say a prayer over it, and proceed with the next slice. Things are going great until I get pierced by a not-so-lucky wishbone. Yep, blood has been let. Julia rightfully said, “When cooking, get good and loaded, and whack the hell out of a chicken.” Well, this chicken certainly had the hell beat out of it.
I served this meal to my husband and another couple. No one was the wiser until Pepper decided he was peckish. He fetched his snack, joined us and sat up proudly dangling his muddy morsel. Sorry folks, I never owned up to how he got it…until now.
Then of course there’s baking. Note to self: A 10-inch square baking pan is not a choice when a recipe says 13×9 pan. Volume matters…HELLO! I didn’t have a 13×9 pan and thought, well, the chocolate lava squares would just bake higher. Oof! Another Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo moment. The volcano that erupted in my oven would rival any “I Love Lucy” skit or a Julia fumble. However, my most precious motto is “never ever let chocolate go to waste.” I salvaged what I could, spooned it delicately into pudding cups, refrigerated them for an hour and topped each with powdered sugar and a cherry. Well, I thought, I outdid myself. Creativity is always the hallmark of a good cook, especially when covering mistakes.
Later in my more experienced “wifery,” we hosted a hamburger dinner for some neighbors. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. The electricity went out throughout the area, but not to worry, we had a propane grill. Guests arrived — more than I should’ve invited — but hey, it’s hamburgers. When making hamburgers for guests I always buy the best beef possible, and this was no exception. And in a minute you’ll know why that is an important little factoid. Accoutrements on the table, potato salad ready, and everyone brought a side to go with — and the propane tank was empty. Hard to believe not one guest had a spare to share. Zoinks, Batman, what now? I remembered a Julia Child episode where this happened on TV, and being the creative cook, she had a solution. The menu now was steak tartare. I had the onions, the mustard, mayo and eggs (yes, raw) and proceeded to make individual mounds for our guests. Julia to the rescue again. No, not everyone ate the new entrée, but they filled up on everything else, and I made sure there were gallons of watermelon margaritas and beer available in the ice chest. We enjoyed the day, nonetheless, albeit a bit buzzed.
Like Julia, who entertained audiences with her enchanting cooking foibles and rose to become a renowned chef, I now enter my kitchen of ingredients and create a fairytale meal. It is possible. Abracadabra.
I leave you with one of Julia Child’s most intriguing quotes: “I think every woman should have a blowtorch.”
Amen to that, and Bon appétit.
Ponder to Blow Your Mind:
What is real and what is just our perception of reality? Or does every organism live in its own personal reality?