Julia Child: New Friends, New Energy
'The French Chef' invites some of America's best cooks into her kitchen -- and we get to eavesdrop
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Recipes from the guest chefs on her series can be found in a companion cookbook (''In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs,'' Alfred A. Knopf, 302 pp., $35.) It has well-written profiles of each cook, tips from Julia, and some fine photographs.Skip to next paragraph
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It was no easy task for Julia and her assistant Nancy Verde Barr to convert chefs' recipes for the home cook. ''They give you enough ingredients for a restaurant-size dish,'' Julia groans.
No shortcuts for real cooks
Even after Julia and Nancy's efforts, the longer recipes can challenge the time-strapped cook. For this, Julia makes no excuses. ''You need all the details,'' she writes.
Part of Julia's appeal is that she has strong convictions, and she's not timid when asked about today's trend toward slam-dunk meals and cookbooks touting quick and easy dishes. ''These are for people who really don't like to cook,'' she says.
As for other food trends, Julia is no fan of low-fat cooking: ''It's more sensible to take an adult approach: moderation, small helpings, and a great variety of food.'' She defends French cuisine: ''It's a shame people today say 'Oh, no, all that butter and cream,' when, of course, there are all kinds of French cooking.''
She's also dismayed by the way some cooks handle food with their bare hands. ''Contemporary chefs are not trained to use utensils,'' she says. ''It's bad for viewers to see that.''
But even more disconcerting than some food trends, she says, are social trends. ''I deplore schools that extend their programs into dinner time,'' she says, emphasizing the importance of shared family meals.
Cooking helps community
Julia also understands the connection between cooking and community, and isn't shy about advocating for causes she believes in. She recently took time to speak with graduates of an innovative cooking program at a Boston shelter for the homeless.
She urges chefs to go beyond making a terrific seafood stew to make a larger contribution to society. ''All you need is a table, a bucket, a hot plate, a frying pan, and a pot, and you can do an awful lot,'' she says.
She's heartened by the progress women have made in this country's kitchens -- which is better than what women face abroad.
''In France, women are not made welcome at all. Even for men there, it's not an honored profession unless you're a [Roger] Verge or a [Paul] Bocuse,'' she says.
When Julia was studying cooking in France, women chefs were scarce. Her only models were Dionne Lucas, Fannie Farmer, and ''a wonderful old girl who came from Vermont'' whose name she does not recall.
Undaunted by sexism and ignited by the joy, pride, and dedication of her teachers, Julia forged ahead, becoming an example to women and men all over the world who want to excel in both their kitchens and careers.
Julia has no plans to loaf. She's already plotting her next series on baking. It will be taped at her home this summer. And like the current program, this series ''is not for fluffies.''
With characteristic exuberance, she says: ''This is a type of series that could go on forever.'' Pausing for a moment, she adds with a laugh: ''But not in this kitchen!''