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Face to face at the Smithsonian, January 2017

Before Julia Child was an icon of French cooking, she was my escape. Somehow food was programmed into my DNA and I hadn’t realized it yet. As a teenager, all I knew was that this large, middle-aged woman had captured my attention with her tv shows and I hung onto her every word.

Making cakes and cookies was a hobby for me but The French Chef opened up a whole new world. Omelets, chicken, herbs, spices, living abroad. Maybe, just maybe I could be like her someday. She became my role model. It was her casual style I admired. She wasn’t glamorous, she just knew her stuff.  What struck me most was her passion for everything she cooked. It’s what I was looking for in my life – a passion.

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My mom was an avid kitchen experimenter and really let loose when Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published. I remember making hollandaise and bernaise sauces to start, then digging deeper.

Shortly after college, I attended a book signing and met the woman I’d grown to love and who inspired my culinary career. Years later, at an event for the American Institute of Food and Wine, I had the opportunity to interview Julia. I was so nervous! My notepad contained a list of questions for her but she had her own agenda. With conviction, she talked about how we should be enjoying the experience of cooking and eating, how butter was the star of many of her dishes and how the family dinner was a time to share food and conversation.

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Meeting Julia for an interview

Last month I made my first visit to Washington, DC. Even though my museum list was long, my priority was to pay homage to the woman who had influenced and guided my career. First stop, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History where Julia’s original Boston Kitchen is on display as a cultural treasure. My emotions ran high as I viewed the simple “workshop” where she shared her knowledge and recipes with millions of viewers. Shiny copper pots and lids hung on peg boards along with all her cooking utensils. A rustic wooden table in the middle stood steadfast as the heart of the kitchen. Fans gathered around TV screens which were showing her 1960’s cooking shows. A blast from the past!

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Julia made history just being herself. How fortunate she was to be in a place in time where she was appreciated and could be just that – herself.

Ciao for now,

Love, Mary