Mastering the Art of Remembering Julia
Right: From the Sony Film, Julie and Julia, (book by Julie Powell) Meryl Streep as Left,
Julia Child, ever and always, as herself.
Dear Fellow Bakers and Friends of BetterBaking.com,
Welcome to the August 2009 Issue of BetterBaking.com. With the launch of the movie Julie and Julia (I am just reading the book by the same name, author, Julie Powell, that inspired the film), I, as any foodie, I recall, with fondness and nostalgia, my own memories of Julia Child. Actually, I have two favourite JC’s in my life and neither are the most famous JC. My personal favourite JC’s are Julia Cameron, creativity writer and Julia Child. Well, of course, words and food – what better inspirations to choose. Beyond that, oddly, Julia also shares her birthday (August 15tH) with the only fellow I was probably ever in love with and my own birthday(May 5th), is the same as James Beard. But let’s not digress…..that will all be in my book one day.
Like most of you, I knew Julia Child as a fan and reader and then later on, as a culinary colleague. She called me once to congratulate me on an article I did for Fine Cooking on making bread in the bread machine. She said, since I was a professional baker, my Fine Cooking feature made bread machines legitimate, just as food processors were, as part of the process of fine cooking. But years before that phone call, I also crossed paths with Julia Child for another matter altogether.
I am unashamed to say, I was in a pickle about a food feature and thought, who you gonna call? Who else? Julia. I was then a new member of the IACP, International Association of Culinary Professionals and had the Membership Directory which listed dear Julia, then living in her famed Cambridge, Massachusetts abode. The address was there, plain as day, along with her personal and business phone number, available for anyone bold enough to use them. I mean, that was my supposition.
It all happened when I had landed one of my first assignments for the Detroit Free Press; the subject was The Caper Caper. Why a feature on capers? You have to presume in those long gone days where print ruled the foodie world, there was undue newspaper space to fill. There was also no Internet and frankly, libraries had very little to offer on the subject of capers so researching anything meant being a real food journalist. Before I go on: What are capers exactly? They are the unfurled buds of caper berry shrubs and tons of them grow in Spain, if memory serves. It must serve because I definitely remembering calling the commercial and trade import department of the Spanish Embassy in Montreal to find out more. Hola, do you speak Caper? At any rate, caper buds are picked just before they flower and then are marinated or salted and sold in jars. Like anchovies, one either loves capers on pizza, on smoked salmon, and in Caesar Salad or one avoids them like poison ivy and picks them off the food, in the same manner as thoroughbred horse picks its way through mud, i.e. delicately and precisely. I am not sure actually, how I feel about capers; I rather like their piquant, salty taste but prefer not to see them. So I make a couple of things with capers but for my recipes, the capers are mashed into oblivion so they are all flavour, no visuals.
So then, there I was: on deadline for a feature on capers, a debut piece for the Detroit Free Press and no real info. So I opened my IACP directory and figured (albeit on a Saturday night), let’s just call Julia Child. I’m a person, she’s a person (I know no borders in rank) – that was my logic. What moxy Julia was renowned for, I suppose I had in quasi-moxie, aka chutzpah, which, as time goes on, has revealed as sheer obliviousness. What I wanted was the caper inside dope and a good quote and mostly to get my Detroit editor (bless her soul wherever she is now) to leave me be.
So I called Julia. I didn't even know to be nervous. She answered the phone herself and I concurrently heard, in her rich soprano voice, the clink of classes and voices and knew I had got her with company on hand. A social evening? A party with the who’s who of the food world? Maybe the Galloping Gourmet, Burt Wolf or Marion Cunningham? Clearly, there are better moments to call a stranger, let alone an icon, cold. But to Julia’s credit, listening to me introduce myself, she did not skip a beat and help me she did. She gave me more than a few quotes and spent a good 10 minutes chatting capers (which is 9 minutes more than capers need). I was effusive in my thanks which she warmly and briskly brushed off and said, 'My dear, we are all colleagues. We are supposed to help each other'. That was typically Julia: democratic, generous, inspired, and always up for something new.
Years later, now freelancing for more magazines and newspapers but not yet a cookbook author, Julia called me and this time, it was her simply sending on praise for my bread feature in Fine Cooking magazine. I regret I only have this feature in print in the magazine itself having lost tons of features with computer switches over the years. But it was a swell piece on using the bread machine for dough making, which I still do, and baking the breads in the oven. Julia recognized, as I did, and many of us now do, bread machines are perfect for that application. Perhaps you can dig the feature out of Fine Cooking online somehow (the recipe from the feature is below). She applauded me for being an expert and professional baking who by endorsing the bread machine, make it ‘ok’ for home bakers to use something new and helpful, ‘much like a food processor’ she said –it helps the path, it doesn’t replace the cook. When I did myself become a cookbook author and had my first book, A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking (due out again in a new edition in October with Whitecap Books), I was ever so proud to have it nominated as a Julia Child First Book Nominee. I saw Julia at times, over the years, at food events, ever gracious, ever a smile on her place. What made people love her was not anything to do with food really - it was that thing we wish we had in the same copious amount as Julia - a passion for life - a gusto that would not quit. Simply put, we love people who love life, who possess, in tandem with generous spirit, intelligence and kindness, a vitality born of enjoying life to the marrow - a apt pun, you must agree.
When Julia passed away, it was another colleague, a mutual friend at Kitchenaid who told me the sad news that Julia had quietly and calmly gone to the kitchen in the sky.
That is my Julia story. And many people have them which should at the least prove what we already know - her influence and reach was broad; her warmth and humanity, broader still.
This pizza is influenced by a recipe in one of Julia Child's cookbooks. It is simple and simply fabulous.
On the home front, I am knee-deep in cookbooks. Two books are being relaunched in a month or two, A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, and The New Best of BetterBaking.com (you can pre-order now at Amazon, Chapters.ca) but I am also working on two very special books (three if we count in the novel/memoir). Do I have a deadline or publisher? What I have is a passion for flour and sharing. And I have crossed fingers. This is how authors do it. At some point, I will have to focus on one book but so far, all three call with equal fervor. FYI Recipe testing is resuming soon and those who volunteered - we are contacting you one tester at a time so please be patient and know you are appreciated.
With warm and good wishes for your August,
Author and Master Baker
August 2009 Baker's Stash Recipes
My Original Favourite French Bread, in Fine Cooking Magazine
This was my debut in Fine Cooking. It features my Favorite French bread, a version of which I always include in my cookbooks because it is so amazing.
Julia Child's Tomato and Caper Pizza
Inspired by "Your Own Homemade Pizza" by Julia Child. I knew Julia Child as a fan and reader and then later on, as a culinary colleagues. She called me once to congratulate me on an article I did for Fine Cooking on making bread in the bread machine. She said, since I was a professional baker, my feature made bread machines legitimate, just as food processors were, for part of the process of fine cooking. I once called her for help with a caper feature I was doing for the Detroit Free Press. I was effusive in my thanks. She just said, 'my dear, we are all colleagues. we are supposed to help each other'. That was Julia: democratic, generous, inspired, and always up for something new. This pizza is influenced by a recipe in one of Julia Child's cookbooks. It is simple and simply fabulous.
CAPER CUISINE FREE!! Caper Cuisine and Free Recipes!
Got a minute? Care to play the "Caper Quiz"?
Is a caper: a) a prank or trick b) slang for bank hoist c) the little green thing you pick off lox and bagels or d) a pickled, unfurled bud of the caper shrub?
I used Boiled Apple Syrup from King Arthur flour in these fabulous muffins/bread.
!! FREE !!
Bistro Style Zucchini Lasagna Primavera
You can use pre-cooked lasagne or par boil regular lasagne. If you can find a more ambrosia, polished, restaurant-style lasagne, please share it. This is lite and features an inspired, additive garlic béchamel going on, and makes use of surplus zucchini. This is sumptuous and despite the steps it takes: easy. Despite the rich flavor – it is also somewhat lowered fat. It also saves you from one more zucchini bread. I also make this by using half spinach and half zucchini.
Cream Cheese Apricot Tart
This features a neat top layer of cheesecake but it calls for just one pound of cream cheese. Smooth and light, and pretty as a picture.
Plum Jam Cream Scone Sticks
I love the tangy flavour of red plum jam (bought or preferably homemade), ribboned through rich cream scones. Make this into plump sticks instead of wedges or round scones makes these different and perfect for dipping into tea or having with coffee. They bake up quick, buttery and pastry-like.
Lemon pie in a summer convertible model. Whipped and chilled into a cloud-like tart. This one looks like it came straight out of a 50’s diner.
Just desserts for chocolate lovers; a swell pie for everyone else.
Summer movie food: A Da Vinci inspired bread. The genesis is a simpler starter that builds to a whole-wheat and rye finale featuring a spectacular encore of calamata olives studding the final work. An inspired moist and deeply flavored rye bread. Use stone ground dark rye flour for this. Serve with fresh pears, hunks of cheese, and tomato salad.