Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julia Child Had Big Feet

A cherished memory, meeting Julia Child. 

Julia  Child was six feet, two inches tall.  Like me.  She had big feet, like me.  

And so, when I was introduced to her, she looked me in the eye, then immediately down at my feet.  “Where did you get those lovely shoes?” she warbled.

"My sh-shoes?"  I stammered. Julia Child wanted to know about my SHOES?

I was so very privileged to see her several different times over the next few years at food writer’s events.  And each time, she greeted me enthusiastically, and then asked me, “Where did you get your shoes?”

At The Greenbrier. with Anne Willan and Miss Julia many years ago
Now, I’m not going to complain that she wanted to talk about how hard it was to find shoes for our big feet instead of talking food.  I could hardly spit out anything, I was in such awe of her.

And once, she did ask me what I was writing, then admonished me with this:  “You must write about your home, about North Carolina.  Write about the wonderful food there.” 

So I did as Julia said.  First I showcased our bountiful harvest of seafood and fresh produce along the Outer Banks. Then I went to the other end of our state to write about the marvelous foods of the Blue Ridge mountains.  I found so many great stories, such a variety of foods, with passionate folks at either end working hard to bring the best to our tables and markets.  I’m so glad I took that advice from Julia.  I try to bring a bit of the passion she felt about cooking and eating well to my own writing.  She was a good role model.

Like Julia, I was in my ‘50s before I finally got a cookbook published.  Being a “mature” age is hard for me.  I’d rather not be "invisible." I don’t like being “old,” so I’ve learned that I need to add a little gusto, like Julia, to my life.  To approach life and tasks with passion.  For she always did everything full out, it seems, especially when it came to eating, therefore living, well.  Never holding back.  Even into her eighties, she was going to so many public events, doing TV shows, asking questions of other cooking experts at conferences, and writing books.  She always talked to everyone who approached her.  She sat around after dinner and just chatted and laughed with the many people sitting literally at her feet.  She knew no strangers, but many strangers knew her. 

May I be blessed enough to even continue to try to be like Julia.  For, dare I say it, she left big shoes to fill.

One of her biographers told me that Julia and her sister, who was also six feet tall, had a pact when growing up:  If the house should catch on fire, first, they’d throw their shoes out the window, then they’d jump. 

Like Julia, I’m throwing my shoes first.

Check out this youtube video honoring her 100th birthday from NPR:

RECIPE  ~   BRAISED SALMON WITH VEGGIES, an adapted recipe from Julia Childs

From one of my go-to cookbooks, THE WAY TO COOK by Julia Child

     In THE WAY TO COOK, Julia shared a recipe for braised salmon with vermouth or a white wine, and "aromatic vegetables."  Now, far be it from me to suggest a better way.....but.....I do use recipes as a springboard or guide to use with whatever I have on had.  And so, I adapted.  We do not cook with wine with a certain guest, so water flavored with the veggie juices was used instead.  And I added to the chopped carrots, celery, and onion some red pepper and corn cut from a leftover ear.  Rather than cooking these veggies until very soft, for ten minutes, I stopped at five minutes, allowing them a bit more texture, or al dente.  Orzo or Israeli pearl couscous is great with this dish, as they soak up the pan juices.
     YES, THIS RECIPE CALLS FOR BUTTER!  But Julia always preached "moderation."  Butter, cream, chocolate, fois gras.....all those "top shelf" items were to be enjoyed every now and then, not every day, she wrote and spoke.  So just practice moderation.

      Our fish came out just great.  I loved the tenderness of the salmon, the sweetness of the veggies. We toasted Julia Child, her cherished memories she leaves us with, and my good fortune of meeting and talking with her.   Here's to Big Feet!


1 1/2 to 2 pounds salmon fillets, cut into four serving pieces
1/2 to 1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 to 1 cup chopped celery
1/2 to 1 cup chopped onion
1/2 to 1 cup chopped red or green pepper
1 ear corn, kernels cut
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup water, approximately
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Butter a large flat baking dish, and also butter a large piece of was paper that you will use to cover the dish once the fish is placed in the oven.
2.  Remove skin from salmon fillets by running a knife blade between skin and flesh at an angle, holding to the skin with one hand wrapped in a cloth or paper towel which allows you to get a grip.  If there are any bones, pull them out with tweezers.   Place fish in prepared baking dish.
3.  In a saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter, then add veggies.  Saute for about five minutes, or until they have begun to soften.  Then, place veggies on top of salmon fillets (set pan aside to use later).  Add just enough water to come halfway up the sides of the salmon.
4.  Cover the baking dish with the buttered side of the wax paper down.  Bake the fish for about 15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily.
5.  Place the fish on warm plates, with the veggies.  Pour the remaining fish juices back into the saute pan, and boil over high heat until reduced to a few tablespoons.  Stir in the remaining butter, in pieces.  Pour sauce over the fish, and serve immediately.


Please be nice and remember attribution if you should copy this!  Thanks.

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