Raised by quasi-hippies in Columbus, Ohio, television was a carefully rationed pleasure for me growing up: when I was allowed to watch at all, it was mostly PBS. Coincidentally, both parents were avid cooks: my mom TA’ed cooking classes at Ohio State that were taught by my dad’s mother, and they were united in their belief that there was better food to be had than white bread and American Process Cheese Product.
So as a result of those otherwise unrelated facts, a lot of my earliest childhood memories of the boob tube involve an energetic, amazonian woman with an idiosyncratic accent bounding around a TV-set kitchen, doing wicked things to poultry with an unflagging smile on her face.
Years later, away from home for the first time at a college with the worst cafeteria service in the western hemisphere, I spent my entire sophomore year pooling my meagre funds with my housemates in order to cook recipes from the copy of The French Chef Cookbook that I had lifted from my mother’s collection at home. After a dozen tries or so, I got to be reasonably good at the Chicken Breasts and Risotto, but never quite managed to get Chicken Kiev down. An actual chef would have been justifiably horrified at the atrocities I was committing, but it was still lightyears better than the cafeteria, and my housemates seemed to enjoy it.
So thank you and goodbye to Julia Child, who saved four (and occasionally more) starving college rats from a fate worse than death: the Simon’s Rock Cafeteria’s Mystery Seafood Gumbo.
Julia Child: 1912-2004