My earliest cooking memory is of my mother making dinner, with the small black and white TV playing PBS in the corner of the counter. On the TV was Julia Child, of course. My mother was the "Wild Woman of Warminster"; she made fondue and seafood newburg; we ate Chinese takeout; her friends were vegetarians and drove Beetles. And yes, this was certainly due to the influence of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The French Chef.
Today, August 13, I feel like a favorite aunt has died. Child's influence on my cooking is certainly not as direct as on this woman; I am one of the great many home cooks and bakers who caught and kept her enthusiasm
There were many reasons for the rise of foodie culture in the 70s, but Julia Child did much to bring foodie-ism to the people, and bring the cooking show to TV. She wasn't the first TV chef, only the first successful TV chef. The French Chef didn't gloss over a topic, cramming a three-course dinner into a half hour. Like my other favorite TV chefs, she explored each dish in depth, giving the beginner a good foundation, and enough detail for the expert. Her shows of the 80s expanded somewhat to the menu format, but by Baking with Julia, she had returned to doing one thing well per show. Baking with Julia provided the cake and icing recipe for my friend Suzanne's wedding cake. It's a book for the baker who knows the basics and is confident with them. It is not an exhaustive collection -- no cheesecake -- but it is an extensive one.
Perhaps most impressive is that Child didn't start cooking until her 30s, and published her first cookbook at 49. She was 51 when her show first appeared, and continued working into her late 80s. Visitors to her kitchen -- now stored in the Smithsonian Museum -- remark upon how normal it is, with few "professional grade" appliances. She preached the value of skill throughout her career, and practiced what she preached.
Thanks to the marvels of television and the printing press, she'll always be with us.
Guten Appetit Julia!