I’ve been fascinated with the amazing Julia Child since I was a young girl watching her numerous television shows on PBS. Not only was she entertaining in a relaxed and down-to-earth way, she also knew how to get people excited about cooking. She didn’t preach to her audience. She talked directly to us and showed us that cooking with fresh ingredients made all the difference in the taste of food. Her food philosophy is just as relevant today as it was in the 1960s. She had larger than life personality and a unique authenticity surrounding her when she talked about, demonstrated, or wrote about cooking.
Flash forward to late 1999, I had followed my dream of graduating culinary school and was working as a Pastry Chef in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sur la Table had just opened a new store down the road at the same time Julia Child and Jacques Pepin had a new cookbook out (Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home) and were working on an accompanying PBS show. Julia Child was on a press tour and, much to my surprise, was slated to have a book signing at the new Sur la Table. I was beside myself with excitement. How many times in your life do you get to meet your idol? I. HAD. TO. MEET. HER.
On the day of the book signing, I gave myself plenty of time but there were already 30 or so people there by the time I arrived, 2 hours early! Seems she wasn’t just an inspiration to me. It was raining and they had tents set up in front of the store to keep us dry, and I had become so caught up in the excitement of meeting her that I had forgotten to even bring an umbrella. I also forgot to bring a camera, and being 1999, smartphones weren’t that smart yet. Lucky for me, the woman in front of me graciously said she would take my picture with Julia. Crisis averted.
When it was finally my turn, I was clutching my cookbook, giddy with excitement. I doubt I was even able to form a complete sentence. I’d like to think that I said something extremely witty and she laughed her amazing laugh. But I can’t really remember and I doubt it. She was, however, extremely gracious, took my cookbook and asked what my name was. Julia Child asked me what my name was! I was talking to Julia Child! After signing my cookbook, my camera savior saved the day and took our picture together. My brief brush with Julia was at an end.
It’s still one of my most memorable experiences and I still have the outfit that I wore to meet her. I even wear it occasionally and think fondly of meeting this culinary icon one rainy day in Cincinnati.
The passion and joy that I get out of making our jellies are, in no small part, inspired by Julia Child. We too embrace the belief that food just tastes more flavorful if you make it with the best of ingredients. “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it…” -Julia Child