How I Learned to Cook – Part 1

The incomparable Julia ChildMy earliest food memories are of watching the incomparable Julia Child on NH public television and helping my mother in the kitchen. While I can’t remember a single recipe, aside from fluffy scrambled eggs, from watching Julia, I do remember that she was fearless in the kitchen; nothing seemed to fluster her. She would laugh at her mistakes, compensate if she couldn’t find an ingredient, and made it all seem so fluid. I even convinced my mother to send away for some recipes – I wish I still had those laying around.

My mother, like most mothers, did an excellent job of feeding the family on a daily basis. But what really stands out for me is helping my mother prepare for a dinner party. She pulled out all the stops when we had guests over: Coquilles-St. Jacques,  Beef Bourguignon, Chateaubriand, asparagus, cocktails… the whole 9 yards.

One dinner party, Crazy Ootie (my mother) was making some sort of dessert that she had never made before. I can’t remember the specifics, but it was some sort of custard with blueberries. She was using the blender, and in her concentration she forgot to put the top on before hitting ‘start’. Suddenly custard & blueberries were EVERYWHERE in the kitchen. I was totally in shock, waiting for some sort of immediate outburst. After all, she just made a mess of the entire kitchen, hours before her party. Instead, her reaction was to laugh. I mean, it was hysterically funny. I have yet to see a similar blender mishap.

But, between Julia and my mother, I was able to learn two of the most important culinary lessons very early in life: don’t be afraid and have fun.