Even before I worked with her personally, I was a fan of the fabulous Julia Child. And, like young Julie Powell in the movie, I was left confused when the very elderly, revered, gourmet icon allegedly made an unkind comment about me.
My story backs up to 2001, but first let me explain the means to my madness regarding this article.
Some of our lucky email subscribers joined us Tuesday night in West LA, to enjoy an advance screening of Columbia Pictures’ “Julie & Julia.” Julia Child was born in Pasadena, and this was a brilliant coup formulated by our own Marla Dennis, to celebrate the launch of our Old Pasadena walking-tasting tour.
The film was fantastic - very funny, romantic, and incredibly delicious! With food in nearly every scene, we were very happy we ate a little something before. Afterward it was easy to talk each other into splendid desserts at Junior’s Deli (free cake with Landmark movie ticket stubs, just a little heads up; I recommend the blackout cake)! It was a great evening all around.
In the film, our young heroine has a very sad moment she learns that Julia apparently made a negative comment about her; her dreams of their ever meeting fade into hopelessness. I felt for her because I could liken it somewhat to my own personal experience. Except that I did get to meet Julia Child, at her home, where I spent truly some of the most blessed hours of my life.
Once upon a time, there was a lame GE “speedcook” oven called Advantium, that Julia Child had purchased. As such an esteemed buyer, she was promised that GE experts would come to her home in beautiful Montecito, California, to personally teach her to use the oven.
I was one of those experts. The other was a wonderful spirit named Bridget, who came out from GE headquarters in Kentucky, to be with me for this very important post.
We drove to Santa Barbara, we bought groceries. We met Julia the next morning at her pretty, small condo that had a tiny, but perfectly organized, kitchen.
She wanted to be shown how to roast a chicken. The oven didn’t do that, we were sorry to advise her.
“Why don’t we try it anyway?” Julia offered, kindly, hopefully.
Some short time later, we had a roasted chicken, to all of our delight. Who knew?
When our little lesson was over, just as Bridget and I were debating whether to invite our lovely client out to lunch, Julia spoke up.
“Well, you’d better cut up that chicken so we can have lunch, don’t you think?”
I was forced to face my worst demons
Oh yes, OK. And suddenly, I was forced to face my worst demons. Cutting up a chicken is not my strong suit. And I am in Julia Child’s kitchen with this dilemma. Maybe Bridget could do it? She could not.
“Oh fine! Get me some scissors!” I laughed and while Julia set up her patio for our meal, I hacked up the chicken and presented it as elegantly on the platter as possible.
The pleasure of one yummy roast chicken, a Julia-prepared vine-ripened tomato salad with vinaigrette, baguette, and French Champagne, lasted a good hour. We had the most wonderful, sacred time with the world-famous Julia Child, one of the most gracious human beings we’d ever met, for certain.
She sent us off with autographed copies of her latest (and last) cookbook, hugs, gratitude, all good things. A few days later I received a beautiful note in the mail from her, thanking me again.
So imagine my shock a few months later when I received a phone call from my agency through whom I had this job. They wanted to know if 90-year-old Julia was a ‘little off’ that day at her home? She was not, and I told them so - why?
An article in the NY Times had quoted her saying that GE had sent two people to show her this oven, “and they didn’t even know how to use it.”
What could I make of that?
Bridget emailed me, "Did you see that Julia trashed us??"
I think I just laughed.
I have photos of us together, her kitchen, that Champagne lunch, her autographed book, the unforgettable memories.
What can I say?
Never mind Julie, she was probably only misquoted. I still love her too.