Julia's back on Public TV and Boston's WGBH has sent her out to gather the ingredients as well as cook the dinner. Dinner at Julia's (PBS, Fridays, starting Oct. 14, 9-9:30 p.m., check local listings) is Julia Child's seventh TV series . . . and the most complex and elegant of the lot.
In the premiere, to the accompaniment of a piano tinkling out ''These Foolish Things'' and the arrival of well-dressed guests, a chic Mme. Child, gowned and elegantly coiffured, welcomes the TV audience to a dinner party at her Santa Barbara home. (Actually, it's a house rented especially for the series; she lives most of the time in Cambridge, Mass., or at her summer home in the south of France.)
She announces that the main course will be poached salmon; the dessert, sac de bonbon to be prepared by a guest chef, Douglas Grech of Restaurant Duglass in Detroit. You won't believe what happens next.
Julia goes fishing in Puget Sound to catch the salmon. After much grunting (by Julia, not the salmon), she manages to reel in a fish but, alas, it is not large enough for the dinner party. So, we return to the kitchen in Santa Barbara , where Julia whips out a much larger silver salmon, proceeds to demonstrate how to poach it, skin it, serve it.
Then Chef Douglas performs the real miracle of the show - he combines chocolate, egg whites, sweet cream, raspberries, and strawberries to make a luscious dessert basket which all but overwhelms Julia's simple poached salmon.
As the grand climax to this truly yummy show, Julia serves the meal to her eager and seemingly patient guests.
Producer-director is Russell Morash, also responsible for such WGBH classics as ''This Old House'' and ''The Victory Garden,'' both rather basic, un-whimsical, simple shows. Let's hope he hasn't gussied up Julia too much and saddled her with pretentious and cutesy-sounding dishes.
Don't get me wrong, I don't demand a perfect Julia, just a perfectly natural one. Will she ever again be allowed to drop the chicken on the kitchen floor, scoop it up, put it back into the pot, and say to the camera: ''One lucky thing - you're usually alone in the kitchen''?
A chat with Julia
''It's all very different from any show I have ever done,'' says Julia Child on a press visit to Phoenix, Ariz.,
Besides salmon fishing in Oregon, Julia will visit a chicken farm in Fresno, and gather dates, artichokes, and mushrooms where they grow.
Of the 13 guest chefs, four are French and six are American. Two are women. ''Our choices had to depend to some extent on whether the chefs could come out to California to shoot the show. The chef of Lutece (in New York), for instance, just couldn't leave the restaurant.''
Julia is amused at the fact that whenever she has prepared rabbits in the past, there have been letters of protest. ''I don't show much of the preparation because once we got so many letters from people who were horrified that we were so cruel. They don't seem to realize that rabbits, just like chickens, are raised for food.''
According to Julia Child, if a cooking show is not shown in the evening hours (as most of her previous shows were not), a great part of the audience is being missed. ''We are not a show for women only. It's a show for all people who like and enjoy cooking. Lots of chefs watch - chefs like to see what other chefs are doing. And so many men are cooking as a hobby that we now have a large male audience. I suppose there are also many men who prepare the meals in their own households.''
Julia says the most unnerving segment to shoot was the barbecue show which airs Nov. 4. She visited a goat cheese factory to obtain the cheese for the barbecue. ''Then the producer chose a marvelous California site - there was lots of greenery, with the sea and the highlands in view. We had a cowboy fancy roper , Chef Kissel from Seattle's Brasserie Pittsbourg, huge roasts, other barbecue meats, a mariachi band, and just about everybody and his mother as guests.
''Well, the rain poured down. We had to ask everybody to stay on for the next day. But everybody came back, we shot the show beautifully, and then the rain came down in torrents again.''
What next for Julia? I know she has a book - ''From Julia Child's Kitchen'' (Random House, $20) - which gets a good sendoff at the end of the initial show.
''Well,'' she says thoughtfully, ''we'd like to do another show. So, if you know of any funding around. . . .''
Does Julia ever forget about gourmet cooking and just go out and eat a McDonald's hamburger?
''Of course,'' she admits, ''but I don't like the Big Mac as well as the Quarter-Pounder.