Sayre gives us a very intriguing "What if" assignment for this week's Fun Monday. It goes like this: if you had a week with no obligation and money was no object, what would you do with it? Going with the "first thing that comes to mind being the best answer, I decided to do a little time travel back to the 1950s and spend the week in Paris cooking with Julia Child.
Seeing the film Julie and Julia (starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams) recently reminded me about how much I was influenced by Julia Child as a college student in the mid-1960s. I was sometimes called Julia because of my enthusiasm for cooking and entertaining. Forty years later I wonder what happened to that person. Now the idea of cooking and entertaining gives me the bends. In 1965 I was a college freshman majoring in English and home economics. The English was no surprise because I excelled in it in high school. The home economics studies was the result my living arrangements that first year of college. Growing up poor in the country I learned to cook very simple food, never anything that required a recipe. The closest my family ever came to entertaining would be to invite someone home on Sunday for an after church dinner. In my freshman year I left the dorm to live with a young family off campus as a mother's helper. They had three small children and a busy social life tied into the university. There were many opportunities to use the cooking and "gracious living" skills I was learning in my home economics classes. The family and my friends--still stuck in the dorm--were willing guinea pigs for my everyday meals and candlelit dinner parties.
I have a collection of letters written to my older sister from college and most of them contain accounts of meals cooked, parties planned and executed, techniques learned in classes. Here's a sample:
-- "Dear Sis, Wasn't I really tickled to get my new cookbook. . .have about decided that I like it better than Better Homes and Gardens. I'd love to try that mahogany chiffon cake but it takes 7 eggs." January 27, '66
-- "Thursday night five of my sidekicks came over and I fixed a spaghetti dinner for us. We ate in the dining room by candlelight. It was fun." March 14, '66
-- "When I got home from class today Shirley and some of her women's club friends were in the kitchen working on the decorations for the women's club dinner we're having here. I'm helping prepare the meal and do the table decorations." May 6, '66
-- "Last night three girls and I from my foods class gave a dinner for our teachers in the home management house. We used white tablecloths with pink dogwood centerpieces. I fixed the chicken--dipped it in evaporated milk then rolled in cornflake crumbs and baked (it was the 60s!). It was 9:30 when I got home because we had to wash dishes and wash and iron the linens." May 23, '66
-- "Here's the recipe for Mexican Wedding Cookies that I made this afternoon. They're tinted pale green and rolled in confectioner's sugar. Very pretty for a party. This afternoon I made a table centerpiece from fall leaves in a copper pot. We'll use it Saturday for the homecoming brunch Shirl and I are giving before the game." October 13, '66
-- "From now on I have to fix supper all by myself on Thursday night because Shirl has Brownie Scout meetings from 3 to 5:30. I'm gonna really do it up brown--you know--fix different things we've never had and do it all myself so that I can learn to be organized about the whole thing. Steve will be so thrilled to eat my experiments for supper when he gets home from baseball practice." November 1, '66
While studying and practicing classic cooking techniques, I also watched Julia Child as The French Chef on television. I learned from her that excellent cooking and entertaining involves practice, practice, practice. When Julia enrolled in the Cordon Bleu in Paris in the 1950s she wanted to learn about French culture through its food. Later on she became passionate about teaching Americans about French cooking through her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show. In my perfect week that Sayre allows us, I'd love to work alongside Julia at the Cordon Bleu learning how to make the perfect roast chicken and chocolate mousse. After class we'd go shopping in the Paris fresh markets and then spend the afternoon in her small apartment preparing dinner for a group of friends.
Now be sure to check out other Fun Monday fantasy weeks. I've read a few posts already and all I can say is we're a mixed bag of interests!