Food for thought is anything that stimulates your thinking. Lately, thanks to a book I'm currently reading, I've been thinking a lot about … food. And also about life.
The book is an
excellent biography called Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, by Bob Spitz. Even though I haven’t mastered the art
of French cooking, and saw her TV shows only on rare occasions, I've always
a kinship with Julia.
Two things draw me toward her. One is the fact that we share a birthday (the month and day, that is, not the year). The other is a story I heard about something that happened during the filming of a TV episode. As Julia was preparing the dish of the week, some ingredient or other slopped onto the floor. "Oh, don't worry about that," she trilled in her unmistakable voice. "The self-cleaning floor will take of it." Within minutes, the network received more than two hundred calls from viewers asking where they could purchase their own self-cleaning floor.
I don’t know if
that story is true, but I hope it is, because
I like what it says about Julia's approach to cooking. Concentrate on what's important--the food--and don't let a little spill deter you. And keep your sense of humor while you're at it. All of which, when you think about it, is pretty good advice for life too.
Julia was more than a successful cookbook author and a TV star. She changed not only American perceptions of French cuisine, but also the culture surrounding food and the role it plays our lives. Given all that she accomplished, I was surprised to learn from Spitz's book that she wandered through life with no sense of direction until she was close to forty. That’s when she arrived in Paris with her husband, Paul, who'd been posted there by the US State Department. She was a bored housewife who lacked kitchen skills, unable to do much more than boil water. Looking for a way to pass the time, she wandered into Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and decided to take lessons. There she discovered her life’s work and from that point on, she pursued it with an unrelenting passion.
I find her story inspiring--not the cooking part necessarily, but the dedication, the enthusiasm and the joie de vivre. All of those traits are worth cultivating, in my opinion. On our mutual birthday last summer—her 100th, mine a much smaller number—I decided to bake her signature Reine de Saba cake in her honor. Chocolate, almonds, rum, delicious! As Julia would say, "Bon appetit!"