Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Here is why Julia Child is irrelevant

A new movie partly inspired by her life is bringing renewed attention to Julia Child, the late and, to some, lamented French television chef and cookbook author. But to me and thousands of others who watch what they eat, her kitchen techniques and her recipes have long been passe.

I am sure there are many people who still eat this way: three courses of cholesterol-laden food, including gooey desserts, all made with large quantities of butter and heavy cream. I not only gave up cooking with butter or cream 15 to 20 years ago, but devote most of my time and energy to finding pure ingredients and then cooking them as quickly and simply as possible. How many people spend an hour or two preparing dinner? How many use recipes with a dozen or more steps and a list of ingredients as long as your arm?

Mine is the Mediterranean diet: heavy on fish, fruit, vegetables and olive oil. I drink a glass of wine with dinner two or three days a week. A salad and great bread must be part of my meal. My idea of dessert is low-fat organic yogurt with honey.

Who needs Julia Child?

I only have to look at my mother, who spent hours in the kitchen every day and put a great meal on the table every night, while withstanding my father's third-degree on the whereabouts of leftovers. A meatless meal and another of fish were weekly occurrences. She didn't mix meat and milk because we observed the kosher laws.

A plate of cut lettuce, cucumbers and celery was placed on the table every day or we had a big salad. She made her own string cheese and baklava. And starting in 1958, she self-published a cookbook of her Sephardic recipes, following up with two new editions. In short, I only have to look at the life of Grace Sasson if I need to be inspired about food.

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