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Julia Child Sparks the French Chef in Us

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Julia Child Sparks the French Chef in Us

Paris, France

In honor of Julia Child’s birthday on August 15, we are taking inspiration from her life in France. The volumes of cookbooks by Child stacked in our bookcase spark the French Chef in us. We recently walked the streets of Paris and quickly understood why she was so passionate about her experiences there. And then, there’s the food.  Bon appétit!

 

 

Mapping the Day

My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, has more meaning the second time. Our recent trip to Paris makes all her references to places, people and food that much more tangible. In the first chapter, Child describes her arrival in France for the first time with her husband Paul. They emerged from their ship after a weeklong journey across the Pond. They were excited to start their new lives in Paris.

On their drive from La Havre to Paris, they stopped for lunch at a restaurant in Rouen. Child describes that meal in detail. The aroma of butter and shallots, a glass of wine for the first time at midday meal and the wonderful service from the restaurant staff transcended her experience. Her description of a whole fish of Dover sole is so enticing: “browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top”.1 In true Julia Child fashion, she concluded: “Our first lunch together in France had been absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life.”2

 

Local Story

Our arrival in Paris last spring began with equal anticipation and excitement. Our first stop was a scheduled tour to the top of the Eiffel Tower. As we made our ascent at twilight, the City of Light illuminated before our eyes. All of our destinations planned for the next 10 days were within our panoramic view.

 

Paris view from Eiffel Tower  Paris at Twilight

View from the Table

From the Eiffel Tower, we wandered through the adjacent neighborhood. We were hungry and thirsty. We stepped into a locals bistro that specializes in beef. A full butcher counter right inside the restaurant displayed all of the cuts of prime beef waiting to be cooked to order. Our server carried the daily menu written in French on chalkboard to our table. Our blank stares triggered the very gracious host to help us. He sat down at our table and translated each dish into English.

 

Most Exciting Meal

The aroma of butter and beef wafted our way when our neighboring diners were served. We started with house-made pate. A rustic texture of perfectly proportioned meat and fat was spiked with fresh herbs. A typically French salad, with Baby Gem Romaine, was lightly dressed with a tangy vinaigrette. Then, a medium rare steak with a salty browned crust was paired with sweet grilled onions and buttery potatoes. As we sipped French wine, we talked about our travels, our view of the Paris that night and our anticipated journey in the coming days.

Our first meal together in Paris was absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of our lives.

Steak Diane

 RECIPE

Steak Diane

1 & 2 Child, Julia with Prud’homme, Alex, My Life In France, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006) 18 & 19
Child, Julia and Pepin, Jacques, Cooking at Home, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999) 314 – 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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