Julia Child loved to socialize almost as much as she loved to cook. So nobody would have enjoyed the big celebration that fans are cooking up in honor of her centennial more than the Grand Dame of American Cookery herself.
Cities all across the U.S. are paying tribute with Julia-themed dinners and cooking demos, and her longtime publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, which introduced the towering French cook (she was 6-foot-2) to the world in 1961 with the publication of the groundbreaking Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, is whooping it up in a big way, too.
In May, the New York publishing house launched a 100-day celebration on social media sites called JC100. It also has released the first Julia Child app, from iTunes ($2.99). It brings to your fingertips 32 recipes from her seminal Mastering the Art of French Cooking, plus clips from the DVD version of The Way to Cook video series, grocery lists, audio pronunciations of some of the difficult-to-pronounce French dishes and rare photographs. It also comes in a Nook version.
PBS, the network that established Julia as a celebrity in 1963 with The French Chef TV series, has created a big Julia Child birthday site. At pbs.org/juliachild, you’ll find nearly 100 exclusive limited-time full episodes from her cooking series and specials, along with favorite recipes and tributes from big-name chefs and food bloggers.
Born Aug. 15, 1912, to a wealthy family in Pasadena, Calif., Julia died two days shy of her 92nd birthday in 2004, leaving behind a tasty legacy of more than a dozen cookbooks and hundreds of episodes from her 13 television series.
In the process, she changed the way Americans thought about cooking and eating – and not just the fancy-pants French cuisine she mastered while living in Paris with her husband, Paul Child, whom she met during World War II while working in Ceylon for the government.
What most of us remember first about Julia is The Voice, which warbled and trilled like some kind of strange bird. But we also adored her sense of humor, and enthusiasm for cooking and eating, calories and fat content be damned.
Julia always insisted she wasn’t a true chef, despite having trained at Paris’ esteemed Le Cordon Bleu. Maybe that’s why despite her celebrity, she never got too full of herself. Accessible almost to a fault, she loved giving her fans advice – she was listed in the local phone book, and home cooks often would call with questions.
The online headquarters for all things Julia can be found at facebook.com/JuliaChild. You also can follow along on Twitter @JC100; on Pinterest at pinterest.com/knopfbooks/jc100; and on Tumblr at jc100.tumblr.com.
French Potato Salad
I first had this classic salad as a newlywed – my mother-in-law was a huge Julia fan, and this was her favorite way to serve potatoes. It has a wonderful tanginess you don’t find in mayonnaise-based potato salads.
2 pounds boiling potatoes (8 to 10 medium)
4 tablespoons dry white wine, or 2 tablespoons dry white vermouth and 2 tablespoons stock or canned bouillon
2 tablespoons wine vinegar, or 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons olive or salad oil
Optional: 1 to 2 tablespoons minced shallots or green onions, and 2 to 3 tablespoons mixed green herbs or parsley
Scrub potatoes. Drop them in boiling salted water to cover, and boil until potatoes are just tender when pierced with a small knife. Drain. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel and cut them into slices about 1/8 inch thick. Place them in a mixing bowl.
Pour wine or vermouth and stock or bouillon over the warm potato slices and toss gently. Set aside until the potatoes have absorbed the liquids.
Beat vinegar or vinegar and lemon juice, mustard and salt in a small bowl until the salt has dissolved. Then beat in the oil by droplets. Season to taste, and stir in the optional shallots or onions. Pour the dressing over the potatoes and toss gently to blend.
Serve them while still warm, or chill. Decorate with herbs before serving. Makes about 6 cups.