The movie “Julie & Julia”” hit theaters last Friday, just one week before Julia Child’s birthday on August 15th. The foodie movie’s considerable buzz has gotten me thinking about the Grande Dame of American culinary education. So in our wine shipments this month,we paid homage to Julia by selecting wine-friendly recipes from her original cook book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, first published in 1961 after 8-years of work.
My Life With Julia
The catchy title for this posting is a bit of a stretch. Actually, it’s a big stretch. My time with Julia lasted all of 6 minutes during which not a single word was spoken (and since she lived to be 92, our shared time amounts to just one 10-millionth of her life).
Somehow, I doubt she remembered me.
But I remember our shared moment. It was in Chicago back in 1990 (a few years after this photo at right). She was the keynote speaker at an international wine event and I was an attendee. Of all the choices for the break-out sessions, I’d selected the vertical tasting of Mondavi Cabernets. Mondavi was at its peak back then, and the tasting was hosted by a superstar from their sales team, a man whose aura of confidence extended at least 50 feet, a man who was not on a first-name basis with humility.
The room quickly hushed as his session began. Several minutes into his well-rehearsed presentation (he actually genuflected as he said the words “Opus One”), an aged Julia quietly ambled in. She took the empty seat next to me and I could hear a quiet rustle in the room as everyone discreetly ignored the presenter to sneak a peek at Julia. Had the presenter not been such a stranger to humility, he might have relished his honored guest. Instead he simply asked for everyone’s attention.
As the presenter marched ahead, I tried to think of something witty to say, something Julia hadn’t heard a million times before (“Your boeuf bourguignon changed my life” or “What do you think of Dan Ackroyd’s spoof of you on SNL?” or “How many times DID you drop something on the floor during your live TV show?” or…) – no such drivel would suffice. I wanted my opening phrase to provide a foundation for a lifetime of exchanged letters, opinions on new food trends and mutual dinner invitations whenever travels brought us into the same ZIP code.
As I sat pondering my ideal introduction and most attendees were once again returned their attention to the speaker, Julia grew increasingly impatient. She listened for a few minutes, making eye contact with noone, and then proceeded to taste the first of the six wines neatly semi-circled on her place-mat. She swirled, sniffed, sipped… and made a small puckery face as she shook her head. As attendees began to watch, she repeated this six times, then got up and left, just as unceremoniously as she’d entered. It may have been the only time that presenter ever stumbled during his spiel.
Sadly, my witty greeting for Julia never got out of the garage. I’d like to tell you it was good enough to have started a life-long friendship, but it’s permanently sidetracked somewhere in the neural network of my brain, crowded out by almost 19 years of other stuff. So we’ll just never know.
This Month’s Recipes
To pair with this month’s wines, I selected two recipes from Julia’s first cookbook – a Pissaladière Niçoise (Onion tart with anchovy & olive) and a Coq au Vin (literally, chicken in wine) with onions, mushrooms and bacon. Enjoy!
Quote of the Day
“Life itself is the proper binge”
~ Julia Child, American Gourmet Food Pioneer, Author and TV Personality (8/15/12 – 8/13/04)