Back in the roaring ’90s, when I was 20 and living in San Francisco, I frequented a DIVE Vietnamese restaurant in a rough-and-tumble district filled with flop houses and sleazy bars. The restaurant though was really quite exceptional, despite its very grubby appearance and frequent sightings of vermin. One time, while I was waiting for a to-go order, I noticed a greasy, yellowed newspaper clipping pasted up alongside the door. It was barely legible, but clearly was a sort of review of the restaurant where I stood, and the review was quite favorable. While this is hardly surprising, as posting positive reviews in your place of business is a sure-fire way to gain more customers, but this review was from, none other than the grand dame of cooking, Julia Child.
This strange dichotomy, Julia Child essentially typifying fine dining, and this Tenderloin dive being far from anything classy, struck me as humorously odd. However, Julia Child, despite being an authority on fine French dining (she wrote the landmark cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking), Child was first and foremost a lover of well-crafted food, and I guess, despite the vermin and the greasy walls, this place made some praise-worthy food.
If Child were alive today, we would be celebrating her centennial birthday and likely marveling that someone who indulged so much could still cook, or let alone stand. But sadly Child passed away in 2004 (just eight years shy of her centennial) and instead we have her tremendous legacy and love of cooking to reckon with. She changed how Americans cook, how they think about cooking and how they approach food. She sort of leveled the playing field for everyone, making cooking accessible to all, not just to the elite. And she changed television with her show The French Chef, which brought fine cooking home to television audiences everywhere.
What are some of your fond memories of Julia Child? Do you think she deserves such deification? If not, who do you think possibly deserves the praise more?