The Muse

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Obey Your Whims

“Bon appetite.” Have any of us said that phrase in a normal voice since 1964?

Do you know of anyone who has hosted a TV show and never tried to change themselves?

Apparently Julia Child did not.  

(Above photo Photo of Julia and Paul Child)

With Julia, what you saw was what you got.

I am reading Julia Child Rules, Lessons on Savoring Life, by Karen Karbo, and I was struck by the notion that we have been trained that something is wrong with us, that we need changed, or that at least we ought to be working on ourselves.

More “How–to Books abound that any other. On top of that we need “Life coaches,” because we can’t figure it out for ourselves.  I am guilty of all that myself, having taken more seminars than you can shake a stick at (I never understood why anyone would shake a stick at anything, but it was one of those sayings mother’s perpetrate on their children.)

Most of us want to savor life, but don’t know how.

Apparently savoring life was built in to Julia. There she was a 6 foot 3 inch tall young woman in the 1930’s, too tall to play the damsel in distress in school plays, so instead opted to play the Emperor. Even after shaving three inches off her height she was too tall to be accepted into the WACS or WAVES during wartime, (talk about discrimination), so she because an OSS researcher instead. That was dreary work, typing files, so on a whim she moved to India where she was knee-deep in classified information, and where her organizational skills were appreciated. Julia was not a typical desired young woman to be courted; she was a spinster until age 32, but there in India she met and later married the love of her life Paul Child.

She and Paul were rare birds—mix-matched, he shorter than her by 6 inches, a sophisticated French man of the world, interested in intellectual pursuits and love-affairs—she a giddy free-spirit, and yet they married and lived a forty-eight year love-affair.

Paul introduced Julia to French food. She introduced herself to the Le Cordon Bleu Cooking school, and the rest is history. “How magnificent to find one’s calling at last,” she said. She was thirty-eight years old.

You know after seeing the movie Julie Julia, that publishing her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking was no small feat. After many failures, she decided that writing an 800 page cookbook that didn’t sell, was better than working on an 800 page novel that didn’t sell, for they still needed to eat, she still had the recipes, and she still loved to cook.

When her mayonnaise recipe, one she had successfully made thousands of times, and even made to bolster herself up after a cooking failure, did itself fail, she turned her attention to the scientific interaction of ingredients, or was it the temperature of the bowl or of the eggs?  Julia made so many mayonnaise recipes that Paul finally called a halt to it, and she threw gallons of mayonnaise down the commode. See people do research because they want to know. (I don’t know, though, why her mayonnaise failed, Karbo didn’t say, and I’m not making sixteen gallons of mayonnaise to find out.

When Julia tuned 80, a birthday she would have preferred to ignore, her vast following were in the mood to celebrate her.  And Julia who, according to Karbo, had the stamina of a shed dog at full peak training, attended all 300 birthday bashes. (Some commanding $350 a plate.)

Julia was robust and healthy, except in later life her knees failed her, and she would sometimes cry in pain at the end of the day.

Julia followed her own rules, “Obey Your Whims,” “Live With Abandon, “Be Yourself,” and she became an original. She will long be remembered as The French Chef. (Who was neither a Chef nor French. Don’t you just love it?)

Well, I have a Revere Ware pan in my kitchen, not French standard issue, a travesty by French standards, but it is over 50 years old, I have burned more food in it than I care to count, and I have expended more elbow grease in cleaning it than I care to mention. On top of that I do not have a decent kitchen knife in the house. I'm no French Chef, nor one of any other nationality, but I love watching cooking shows.

Here's butter to you Julia.

Excuse me, I’m going out to eat…

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