A Chat with Julia Child
It was over 40 years ago that Julia Child stepped into Americans' homes via television and forever changed their culinary lives. Her message was a simple one: “Use the freshest and finest ingredients to cook with (which does not mean the most expensive). And, if you can't find the right quality ingredients for that dish, pick another recipe.”
Julia raised the food consciousness of Americans by urging them to go to their grocery stores and demand better quality ingredients. Nowadays, these foods are basic staples and can be found in any supermarket in America.
This April, her friend and Prepared Foods' contributing writer, Wilbert Jones, visited Child at her home. In what turned out to be her last interview, she spoke with as much passion about food as when her first cooking show aired in 1963. Child passed away in her sleep on August 13th, two days shy of her 92nd birthday. To the end, Child maintained her bon vivant image. When asked about her guilty pleasures, she would respond, “I don't have any guilt.”
PF: How has cooking in America evolved?
Child: Although I am not an historian and have not done any research in this area, it seems to me that Americans are much more aware of fine cuisine than they were when I first began my career. With the advent of television and the ease of airline travel, Americans have become more exposed to many different types of food. The supermarkets all are providing wonderful, delicious ingredients, and the restaurants are featuring all kinds of ethnic influences in their cuisine. It is wonderful.
PF: What's available now versus 25 years ago--hard to find good quality ingredients?
Child: When I first began my television series on Educational Television way back in the 1960s, ingredients such as garlic and white button mushrooms were considered exotic. They had to be purchased at specialty stores or at ethnic markets. Now you can walk into the corner convenience store, and there are about 27 kinds of mushrooms! Due to transportation and storage improvements, most “in season” items are available year-round. We have fruits and vegetables being flown in from around the world. And, through education and travel experiences, the American public is much more knowledgeable about an enormous array of foods and flavors. So, just about everything is available from somewhere [at any time].
PF: What's your opinion on food products in the grocery stores?
Child: Grocery stores do a wonderful job of providing top-quality products. Many of the stores do beautiful displays. And the “ready-to-go” convenience of already trimmed broccoli, carrots, and other vegetables is great if your time is very limited.
PF: What are your favorite food ingredients?
Child: As long as the items are fresh and flavorful, they are my favorites!