“Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless,
and above all have fun!” -Julia Child
When my brother-in-law posted this quote yesterday on his FB page I thought, “Wow, we’ve been following her advice all these years and never knew it.” This should be burned into a sign and posted on our kitchen wall because Curt has been doing this our entire married life. Me, not so much, but I certainly have had my moments and I definitely subscribe to the spirit of her words.
When we were growing up no one could have guessed we would be such foodies. I mean, look at us, raised in the fifties eating casseroles, Oscar Meyer hotdogs and Campbell’s tomato soup. My mother did most of the cooking in our house (Dad would grill now and then) but she was also a working mom so spending a lot of time preparing meals was not on her agenda. Fry up some hamburger, add noodles, a can of vegetable soup and you’ve got dinner. Curt’s mom was a housewife who took time preparing her meals (his Dad made chowder) and experimentation for her was, fry up some hamburger, add noodles, a can of stewed tomatoes, paprika and you’ve got “goulash” for dinner. Sure I simplify but neither of our mothers ever got too far out of their comfort zone. I do remember my mother making homemade pea soup. It was probably wonderful but I refused to eat that green stuff. I had to stay at the table after everyone had been excused, crying in my soup, until my mother finally gave up and sent me to bed. No wonder she never experimented much.
But that’s why its so unusual now. Except for fish, I partake in a lot of experimentation around here as Curt tries new recipes, learns from his mistakes and lives to cook another day. And no tears are shed. We had few cookbooks in the early days of our marriage.
The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer was our go-to book for all the basics and for most recipes we wanted to try (the Waffle recipe on page 216 makes the best pancakes – yummy and light). After that it was The Best of Shaker Cooking by Amy Bess Williams Miller (Mary Witcher’s Herb Dumplings on page 193 are the bomb), The Betty Crocker Bisquick Cookbook (the Quick Raisin Bread on page 70 was a long-time Sunday morning favorite) and our subscription to The Time-Life Foods of the World series (The Cooking of Italy: Pizza on page 16 and American Cooking: Apple Pie on page 96 are well stained favorites).
We never knew what part of the world would arrive each month. The Cooking of Italy got a lot of use (we still use the pizza dough recipe) but Classic French Cooking is still in perfect condition. And there were magazines. We subscribed to Gourmet and the now defunct Cuisine (the best issue ever had the back of James Beard’s head on the cover).
The macaroni and cheese I still make came from a Woman’s Day magazine. Hard to imagine, but there was no internet. There were no cooking shows like today. Julia Child’s show, “The French Chef” was on from 1963-73, we were married in 1973, so we must have watched her in reruns because we certainly knew who she was by the time Dan Aykroyd’s bloody send-up aired on Saturday Night Live in 1978. And he didn’t scare us off of sharp knives. No, we continued to cook and experiment on ourselves, our friends, our colleagues.
With close friends we organized a “gourmet” group. We got better and so did the world of food and cooking. Our mothers used salt, pepper, oregano and paprika but there weren’t a lot of spices and seasonings on their grocery shelves to choose from. We have stores that specialize in spices or a few clicks of the mouse and I can get anything I need sent to my door. Curt’s folks gardened and we do too, but you can’t plant it all. Just last week we picked up baby bok choy, lemon grass, fennel, sweet cherries, brown eggs and yellow beets. Sure opens up the possibilities when I ask Curt, “What’s for dinner?”
So Julia, Gordon Ramsay would probably stick his nose up at our table, but we have learned to cook. We’ve been fearless and have tried new recipes. And, God knows, we have learned from some big mistakes. But along the way its been a lot of fun for us and, we hope, for our friends and family. You were right, Julia. Bon Appetit!