Judging from a variety ofthreads I have read over the past years, there are a lot of people here on Mudcat who appreciate fine foods, tasty foods of all sorts. So, I present here a few recollections about Julia Child on the occasion of her retirement. Well, I don't recall that Julia Child has ever been described as "retiring" but she is now leaving the East Coast for the West.
For those of you who don't know who Julia is, she is an immensley entertaining, down-to-earth Frecnh cooking personality on television. She is probably as responsible as any single person for imroving the quality of American cooking at hoime and in restaurants by removing much of the mystery. When I first met her (more about how that happened later), I noticed that she was wearing on her cooking blouse an embroidered emblem that was the logo of her cooking school in Paris, "L'Ecole des Gourmandes". Both gourmets and gourmands love food but the gourmad revels in it, eating large quantitites and enjoying all.
As it came close to the time for Julia to close down her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts and head back to California which was her origianl home, the people at the television station where Julia had been a fixture for more than thirty-five years decided, not unreasonably, to honor her.
One of the ways they decided to do this was to ask people who had worked with her at WGBH-TV to write their recollections. I wrote mine and for anyone interested, here is my message to Julia:
My motorcycle might seem an odd way to begin a story about Julia Child but my BMW is what first comes to mind when I think of Julia at WGBH. At the time we moved into 125 Western Avenue (the new television building), I did not have a car and instead would commute to work from my Beacon Hill apartment on my bike along Storrow Drive to "the new building". In summer, the commute was brief and pleasant but in winter, the freezing temperatures were not only uncomfortable, but they made the oil thick and the bike hard to start. I soon discovered though that if I parked the bike in the little arcade in front of the building,under the overhang, it was far easier to kick over the engine when I left the station in the evening. First of all, just being near the building, the bike was a bit warmer than it would have been out in the windy parking lot but the real warmth came from the building's air exhaust which was located to the right as you left the building.
The air handling system would collect the heated air in the building and blow it out through the panels there so that there was always a blast of warm air coming through the grating. Since the studio lights created much of the heat inside the buildings, even in the winter, it was mostly studio air that blew out the grating in front of the building. I started parking m bike here every day.
Soon I began to notice that on the days that Julia was rehearsing or taping, the exhaust air was flavored with the rich smells of shallots, cooking wines, meats, spices, and garlic. In fact, my bike was marinating in these odors.
As the winters went on, the bike became more imbued with the smells of Julia's cooking. The leather and I think even the rubber absorbed the smells. The metal parts became coated with fragrant oils. It reached the point that whenever I started my motorcycle, even miles away from WGBH, as the bike warmed up, the smells were released. It gave my motorcycle a special distinction. It was a motorcycle with the fragrance of Julia's kitchen.
Some people say that they can pick out the sound of their motor vehicle in a crowd of them, recognizing their engine by the tone of the exhaust. For me, I think I could have picked my motorcycle out blindfolded, thanks to the studios' exhaust, blowing out of the building and bathing my motorcycle in the lovely smells of Julia's kitchen.
One afternoon in Cardullo's Market in Harvard Square about thirty-five years ago, I seemed totally unable to get any clerk's attention. In fact, there didn't seem to be any clerks around. I stood in the middle of this gourmet outlet looking for someone to answer a question about something, now long forgotten, that I wanted to buy. My frustration was forgotten when I saw Julia and Paul (Julia's late husband) walk in. After a brief conversation, we all continued on our errands only now there seemed magically to be plenty of clerks. While several clerks appeared to take care of Paul and Julia, I found that due to my perceived association with them, I now had two clerks of my own who were anxious to know how they could help me.
The last time I saw Julia was about five years ago. I was walking in San Francisco near Union Square on my way to take an FBI polygraph test. Through a strange series of circumstances, I had found myself a suspect in a murder case of a little girl in Petaluma, the town forty miles north of San Francisco where I now lived. The case had just been featured on "America's Most Wanted" and had become a national story. The FBI as well as the local police, were anxious to make an arrest. Because of a number of bizarre coincidences, the police had settled on me as their best suspect so I had volunteered for the polygraph test that I was sure would clear me of any suspicion - even so, I was nervous about the test. Of course, I was pretty sure the test would demonstrate that I had nothing to do with the abduction of the little girl but I couldn't help but wonder whether or not the nervousness that I felt about the whole process would look like guilt as far as the lie detector was concerned.
I was lost in this sort of thought as I walked towards the offices where I was to be strapped to a machine that, hopefully, would finally clear me of suspicion. In fact, it would, but of course I had no way yet to know that. Up ahead of me on the sidewalk in front of an upscale San Francisco hotel, I saw Julia. She was one one of her periodic trips promoting a new book, a new television series or perhaps just helping a favorote charity by appearing at a fund-raiser. Seeing a friendly face at this particular time when I was being regarded by many as a child-molester and perhaps murder was most uplifting. I started walking faster to reach her before she could disappear into a waiting long black automobile whose driver was holding the door for her. I could hear her familiar voice and it felt so good to see her again.
Then suddenly I began running through my mind the conversation that was bound to take place in a few moments. After greeting me, she would ask me what I was up to. "Oh, nothing much. I'm a murder suspect and am on my way to take a polygraph test - and how are you?"
I decided to slow down and let pass this opportunity to talk with Julia so I didn't take the opportunity to say goodbye as she drove away to whatever appearance or presentation had brought her to town so, now five years later, these stories are my long-delayed greeting to her and are sent with my best wishes.