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Published: Tuesday, 4/3/2001

Julia Child has cooked up a big following

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Julia Child was expected to be on the program at the Symposium of Professional Food Writers last week, but she was unable to attend.

The star of television cooking shows, and a renowned cookbook author since Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961, is a revered icon among foodies.

I had the honor of interviewing her when she spoke at the Front Row Theatre's Dialogues in suburban Cleveland in 1991.

Julia Child: culinary icon Julia Child: culinary icon
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At a private breakfast before her talk, Ms. Child, then 78, confided that she ate no substitute foods such as egg or butter substitutes. “I eat real food,” she said. “I am suspicious of those other things. I don't buy prepared foods.”

Now, 10 years later, I listened to cookbook authors and food journalists talk with affection about recent comments she had made. They adore her.

That set me to thinking about the current generation of celebrity cooks and whether another Julia is emerging.

“There may not be another Julia Child,” said cookbook author Pam Anderson. “Lots of people are taking little bits of her place. Emeril Lagasse is appealing to the broadest number of people who wouldn't cook otherwise. That's what Julia did. She brought food to people who wouldn't have cooked otherwise.”

Emeril is not alone in influencing the multitudes of home cooks, chefs, and wannabes.

Martha Stewart is bringing a lifestyle and the good life to many. She started out as a caterer, evolved into a cookbook author, launched herself into television, and then started a magazine. Via Kmart, one can buy her choices of sheets and towels, dishes and cookware.

Well-respected among food experts is Anne Willan, director of La Varenne at the Greenbrier. On the Martha Stewart television show this spring, Ms. Willan presents the British Easter menu of whole roast salmon with all the trimmings.

In one of her earlier appearances, Ms. Willan and Ms. Stewart cooked apple gateaux featured in From My Chateau Kitchen by Ms. Willan, who has written numerous cookbooks and is the founder of La Varenne cooking school, which is now in Burgundy, France.

Radio listeners tune in to Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of the national radio program The Splendid Table, which airs from noon to 1 p.m. Sundays on WUOM-FM (91.7). The program was a winner of the James Beard Award for Best National Radio Show on Food.

Her book The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food, was the first to win both the Julia Child Best Cookbook of the Year Award and the James Beard 1993 Cookbook of the Year award.

Indeed these personalities represent cuisines from Classic French to contemporary to Italian. Phrases such as “Bam” (a favorite of Emeril's) and Kmart advertising make some household names. Some specialize: Pam Anderson is to recipes what Joan Nathan is to Jewish cooking.

Last week, a fan of 30-minute meals wrote to say that “the two women who invented the genre were not mentioned” in my article the day before. Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross, writers of the Desperation Dinners column which The Blade publishes each Sunday in the Living section, promise “Meals in 20 minutes.”

They get Sarah Farrar's vote. “They have pantry lists in their books and I use their recipes often. They're fabulous,” wrote Mrs. Farrar of Oak Harbor. The duo are authors of the cookbook Desperation Dinners.

Indeed, in the world of culinary stars, devotion counts, and Julia Child still has a major share.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor. E-mail her at food@theblade.com.



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