edible adventures from the centre of the universe

23 November 2006

Remembering Julia

Long before 30 minute meals, staggering dicketry, and semi-homemade, semi-edible cooking became the cornerstones of food television, Julia Child paved the way with coq au vin, madeleines, and petits fours. With her groundbreaking cooking show, The French Chef, Julia introduced 1960's America to fussy French cuisine with friendly, infectious enthusiasm. Without her breathless passion for the kitchen, foodie-ism and cookery would not be a multi-million dollar industry today.

I recently got my paws on a new DVD that celebrates the life of this iconic lady -- Julia Child! The French Chef. This 3-disc collection includes a 2004 documentary, Julia Child! America's Favorite Chef, as well as 12 episodes of The French Chef that were aired between 1963 and 1971 (some are in black & white). 348 minutes of Julia!

The one-hour documentary is a complete history of Julia, from her childhood to the years just before her death. In spite of its public television production, the film is very well-done with a lot of interesting tidbits that aren't widely known (particularly about her life before she met her husband Paul). A lot of Paul Child's photography is showcased, as well as images from Julia's family photo albums. Interviews with Julia's friends, experts, and the woman herself round out the experience. I found this film delightful -- it's thoughtful, funny, and even emo (I found myself tearing up at points). Highly recommended.

Once you've watched the doc, the 12 episodes of The French Chef that are included on this DVD let you get a great taste of Julia in action. Because I was too young (pre-embryonic, even) to catch any of these episodes when they first aired, the whole experience of Julia's awkward, shout-y, stumbling delivery was completely new to me with this DVD. I loved it. Her imperfections are clearly what made her show so accessible to the American public, and her raw passion makes you just want to get into the kitchen. In this collection, the episodes are shown in "menu order" (starters and sides, then mains, then desserts) -- while cute, this can be a little off-putting because the episodes are not in the order they were aired and therefore switch from colour to B&W, and back again. Nevertheless, many classics are covered (quiche Lorraine, pot au feu, brioches, coquilles Saint-Jacques, etc.), and it's always a joy to watch Julia. The discs also include printable recipes from The French Chef.

Julia Child's importance in the evolution of today's food culture should never be forgotten. This DVD collection will help any foodophile remember why he/she fell in love with cooking and eating delicious cuisine in the first place.

Bon Appetit!


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