My favorite Julia Child quote ever is: “No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize.” Most people won’t even notice your culinary mistakes, she'd say, so why call attention to them? Once, after dropping a potato pancake on live TV, she pieced it back together and asked the audience: “If you’re alone in the kitchen, who’s going to see?”
In the New York Times magazine last week, In Defense of Food author Michael Pollan discusses Child’s legacy and how home cooking has changed. These days, we spend far more time watching celebrity chefs compete on the Food Network than we do cooking in our own kitchens. (Food porn, you could call it. Vicarious thrills.)
Even when we do cook, the object is to get it over with as soon as possible. Most of the programs on Food TV that still offer instruction and recipes use convenience foods as ingredients to help speed the process. You know: Cool Whip, canned cream of mushroom soup, jarred tomato sauce, frozen vegetables. Pollan refers to these cooking shows as “dump-and-stir.”
Julia Child gloried in real butter, meat, potatoes, and all those other things modern cooks are so skittish about. (As I recall, she lived to be 91.) Her shows, and her cookbooks, taught Americans to take pleasure and pride in cooking, to experiment and to have fun. At a time when so many of us are scared of real food and content to let corporations do the cooking for us, we could use some of Julia’s attitude.