A passion for food + fashion

Posts Tagged ‘Julia Child’

Sex After Sixty

In Drink, Fashion, Food, Media, Recipes on July 23, 2010 at 11:38 am

Without doubt, what I love best about this blog are the people it has lead me to, total strangers who have become virtual friends. And at the top of that list is a woman I greatly admire, Mary L. Tabor. And so today, it is my great honor to talk with the writer about her seductive new memoir, (Re) Making Love: A Sex After Sixty Story. First, buy the book by clicking HERE. Then, settle in for a delicious conversation with Mary, complete with her recipe for finding lasting love…

FOODINISTA: Your first book, a collection of short stories, is The Woman Who Never Cooked. Who is that woman? How does she differ from you?

MARY: I am hidden inside the fiction and oddly or maybe not so odd, I included three memoir pieces that I don’t identify as such. That’s the first tip-off. In the fiction, I used food and adultery as metaphor for the grief I bore through my mother’s, my father’s and my sister’s illnesses and deaths. I wasn’t sure who I was. I didn’t know when I wrote “The Woman Who Never Cooked,” the title story, that I would become that woman. The story relies on cooking, despite its title, and scrolls through recipes from some of my favorites: The Silver Palate Cookbook, Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking, The Ramognolis’ Table, Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts, Chez Panisse Desserts, Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts, Gourmet’s Best Desserts, Silver Palate Desserts.

I stopped cooking after D. in my memoir left me. Was I prescient? I don’t think so. I do think that cooking and love and family are inextricably entwined.

I’m cooking again. I know that’s a good sign.

FOODINISTA: What is the great seduction dish of all time?

MARY: It begins with a joke and ends with a kiss. I read this recently somewhere: “Vacationing in Vermont, someone picked up the local paper to check out the forecast. It read: Today: Sunny, 76. Tonight: Not so sunny, 55.” I laughed and thought of eating lobster at a lobster shack somewhere in Maine. That’s near Vermont, right? Geography is not my long suit. For me, boiled lobster is the ultimate seduction dish. And I’ll never forget watching Darryl Hannah eat one shell and all in a Rom-Com I love: Splash. But I hear she’s a vegetarian so that was a very complicated lobster.

Complicated is good where love is concerned.

If I were going to seduce a man, I would make Pierre Franey’s (the 60-Minute Gourmet whose passing left a hole in my favorite rag The New York Times that Mark Bittman has done a great job of filling) chocolate mousse and his Strawberries Romanoff (strawberries steeped in Grand Marnier, orange peel and topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream).

Dessert first. Then make love and think about food later when you’re starving.

FOODINISTA: Your new memoir (Re)Making Love is about finding love after sixty, but there are rather beautiful truths for women of any age. I particularly loved the chapter about your hair. What can a haircut say about a woman? Does long hair at 24 mean the same thing at 64? Incidentally, after a bad breakup in my 20s, I cut off all my hair and moved to Paris. The short hair played well over there. It did not have the same effect when I moved back to San Francisco.

MARY: I remember when Mia Farrow cut her hair but wasn’t that after she hooked up with Frank Sinatra? I remember Jean Seberg, really cute haircut, in Breathless, but, golly, she did also play Joan of Arc.

I do think the French, despite all the bashing we Americans sometimes get from them, have an esthetic that focuses on beauty and sensuality in a way that we Americans can learn but don’t grow up with: The reason your short hair in Paris was a hit.

I first cut my hair after my second child was born: Went into the bathroom and cut my ponytail off with a scissors. Something was going on with that crazy move—and I don’t think it had to do with my kids—first husband maybe?

I then let it grow and cut it again when a corporate job and raising two kids on my own was my stated reason, but I had also met the man I later married: my second marriage.

In 2002 when I let my hair grow again—what I refer to as the trial of the hair: Have you ever grown out curly hair?—the result gave me a new sense of my sensuality. Long and white, this hair will not see the scissors again.

So, if there’s a difference, it’s not age, it’s Paris.

FOODINISTA: Is La Perla the best revenge?

MARY: Feeling beautiful inside is the best revenge. A good bra on the way there helps like this one from La Perla:

I don’t have this bra but, if I did, I’d dance around the kitchen in it and pretend I was Lady Gaga.

Will he love you when you’re 64? He will, with or without the bra.

FOODINISTA:  In (Re) Making Love there were three kitchens and two husbands. Tell us about your dream kitchen and your dream husband.

MARY: My dream kitchen would have a Wolf range top, two Miele wall ovens, a Subzero fridge and freezer and a stainless steel island with lots of electrical outlets. And the sink would have a window over it.

My dream husband would cook with me in that kitchen and he’d be the man who wrote this description of my memoir: here’s an excerpt of what the man I love actually wrote to help promote the book:

“A series of men appear—all identified as a lower-case first initial—while the upper-case D. weaves out and in, as both he and Mary maneuver through the separation. Along the way are the Internet dates, emails, T.S. Eliot and Nietzsche, romantic comedies and the Grimm Brothers, photographs, recipes, dreams, Obamas, and yes, even the kitchen sink. Her journey moves from her home in Washington, DC to Missouri to Australia and eventually to Paris, a visit that offers a stunning surprise that changes her life.”

Gotta love him, and I do.

FOODINISTA: Please share two recipes for love—one philosophical, one we can cook.

MARY: Philosophical recipe:

Never forget the Laws of Thermodynamics. C.P. Snow provided this shorthand to remember the laws: 1. You cannot win. 2. You cannot break even. 3. You cannot get out of the game.

But if you stay in the game, you can dance even when it seems that the dancers have all gone under the hill.

Now go to the farmers market, buy corn and tomatoes and lots of basil.

Slice the tomatoes, sprinkle with some grated parmesan and asiago cheese, preferably from The Cowgirl Creamery, around the corner from me. Add a chiffonade of basil, salt and pepper. Then make Angel Hair Pasta and Pesto. I refer to this as my McDonald’s meal ’cause to me this is fast food fast and it says summer.

1 or 2 bunches basil (about two cups, leaves only)

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (or more; I don’t measure; just look)

4 cloves of garlic

the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford

Put the garlic cloves, the basil and the cheese in your food processor. Give it all a whirl while you pour in olive oil until you see green of summer like grass in a field.

Boil angel hair pasta (the best homemade brand you can find or use DeCecco) ever so briefly. Put the pasta in a beautiful bowl, scrape all the pesto on top, pour a quarter cup or so of the pasta water on top. Toss and serve with corn and tomatoes.

Serve with one of my son’s imported wines: I like S.C. Pannell’s 2007 Sauvignon Blanc or try the best buy ever, my son’s Woop Woop Shiraz.

Don’t forget to tell jokes and kiss while cooking: You will taste both in the pesto. And remember Robert Hass the poet who says in “The Privilege of Being,” “Many are making love. Up above, the angels/ in the unshaken ether and crystal of human longing/ are braiding one another’s hair, which is strawberry blond … .”

This One Takes the Cake

In Food on June 2, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I was feeling the foggy effects of the previous night’s gin and tonic(s) on Sunday when my sister, Claire, casually mentioned that she was going to bake a birthday cake for our friend Vincent. This one? I asked, looking at a cookbook photo of an intimidating confection that Julia Child calls her “Chocolate Ruffle Cake.” Never in a million years would I have les oeufs to tackle something like that, and I’ve repeatedly documented that I haven’t the patience nor precision for baking anything let alone hand-crafting chocolate freaking ruffles. And so I watched in awe as Claire melted chocolate, spread it on jellyroll pans, chilled and then went to work on her avant-gard frills, and the creme fraiche and cocoa filling dotted with raspberries between layers. She riffed on Julia’s cake by replacing the hard chocolate icing that wraps around the cake with a chocolate whipped cream frosting, which she topped with the afore-mentioned ruffles and fresh raspberries. That night, the birthday boy declared it “a true fashion cake.” It was, he said, the poustiest cake he’d ever seen. And it tasted just fabulous.

Meanwhile, back stage, here she is folding the cocoa powder into whipped eggs to make the genoise (pronounced jen-wahz) cake, which is so light.

Once the cake is baked, she sliced it into three layers. Each layer got topped with a framboise syrup, cocoa crème fraîche and fresh raspberries, which you chill in a cake pan w/ a removable bottom for several hours:

Here’s a close-up of those chic ruffles that she tucked into the top of the cake. It looked like something straight off the Marchesa runway!

And here’s a peek inside. Look at those luscious layers. I can tell you this cake is every bit as good for breakfast the next morning…

French Onion Soup, Old School Edition

In Food, Recipes on November 9, 2009 at 5:55 pm

french onion soup

Last week over lunch at Café Midi my sister was tempted to order the French onion soup. It isn’t their most winning menu item, so I suggested that instead we try making our own for dinner on Saturday night (taking a page out of Julia Child and a break from the week of pork – more on that later).

soupe a l'oignon

We went to Surfas where we picked up some Gruyère—a cheese so extravagant that I was compelled to rip the $23 price tag off it before my husband came home, only to blurt out a confession moments after he walked in the door because (a) I went to Catholic school and can’t stand the guilt and (b) am the world’s worst liar. Oh and (c) it’s not nice to lie to your husband, for better or for worse, etc!


This soup’s superb complexity comes from a couple hours of slow-cooking onions and simmering. And of course the quality of ingredients. I used vermouth instead of white wine and equal parts veal stock and beef stock for added richness, also picked up at Surfas. I love using vermouth; it gives that nostalgic note that reminds me of my grandmother’s best dishes, which I’m guessing relied heavily on Julia.

veal stock

And then, the best part: that nutty, slightly sweet Gruyere that I could (and did) eat all on its own. Here’s Julia’s recipe. Follow it to the letter of the law and you seriously won’t believe that something this good could come from a home kitchen.

Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child

For 6 to 8 servings [Foodinista’s note: this serves more like 4 as a main course]

The onions for an onion soup need a long, slow cooking in butter and oil, then a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavor which characterizes a perfect brew. You should therefore count on 2 1/2 hours at least from start to finish. Though the preliminary cooking in butter requires some watching, the actual simmering can proceed almost unattended.

1 1/2 pounds or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions, plus 1 tablespoon grated onion

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon oil [Foodinista note: used olive oil]

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar (helps the onions to brown)

3 tablespoons flour

2 quarts boiling brown stock [Foodinista note: used 1/2 veal stock + 1/2 beef stock]

1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth [Foodinista note: used dry vermouth]

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons cognac

12 to 16 slices French baguette cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick

2 ounces Swiss cheese cut into very thin slivers + 1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese

Cook the sliced onions slowly over low heat with the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed, covered saucepan for 15 minutes.


Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.

onions flour

Remove from heat, and blend in boiling stock. Add wine or vermouth, and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning. Add cognac, 1 tablespoon grated onions, and 2 ounces cheese slivers.

broth cheese

While soup is simmering, make croutons by placing bread in one layer in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for about half an hour, until it is thoroughly dried out and lightly browned. Halfway through baking, brush with olive oil. After baking, each piece may be rubbed with garlic.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pour soup into ramekins or oven-proof bowls. Float rounds of toasted bread on top, and sprinkle grated cheese over.

french onion soup

Bake for 20 minutes, then for a minute or two under broiler to brown the top lightly. Serve immediately with a glass of red Burgundy. We went with a 2007 Drouhin Côtes-du-Nuits Villages at a relatively cheerful $19.99.

soupe a l'oignon gratinee

Whisky River…

In Drink, Food on August 23, 2009 at 9:10 am


Last night was boozy and brilliant. My sister, Claire, is town, and we were joined by our friends Lizzie, Katie, two Matts, and a trio of Scotch. Katie brought over three different single malts from Scotland—Ardbeg, Oban and Glenrothes—for us to try for dessert. In anticipation I made a Reine de Saba from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, subbing in Makers Mark bourbon for rum as I thought it would be more user-friendly paired with the Scotch. Seriously—Julia would be proud. I think I might have a serious crush on Oban, by the way. Here’s Lizzie topping me up.


Thank you, Katie, for sharing your best bottles! Frankly I think she was trying to get Mr. Foodinista drunk so she could beat the madras shorts off him at tennis this morning. They’re in Griffith Park, volleying as we speak… Who will win? Cast your votes…

What the Hell, Food Bloggers?

In Film, Food, Media on July 29, 2009 at 8:17 pm
Julie Powell: A force to be reckoned with! Photo via juliepowell.blogspot.com

Julie Powell: A force to be reckoned with! Photo via juliepowell.blogspot.com

Today, Gawker had a great item called “Prissy Food Bloggers Hate Food Blogger Movie,” which has generated a LOT of traffic back to my own hopefully minimally prissy pseudo-food blog, thanks to Gawker reader “snugbug” who linked to an item my friend Sorina wrote about foodie beach reads a few weeks ago. I’m in snugbug’s camp when it comes to Julie Powell’s writing prowess, and so wanted to add my unsolicited two cents to the debate, because I’ve had the pleasure of working with Powell, who is about as unprissy as they come. (Amy Adams, who portrays her in the movie, is another story for another time. Who has that kind of energy??) The debate seems to stem around whether or not Julie Powell has the chops to cook. I would venture that a recent post on her blog featuring the above photo of Powell wielding a small knife with which she has boned an entire pork leg while wearing a “don’t fuck with the cook” apron should help to silence her detractors.

But back to those who somehow feel like Powell has maligned Child’s memory, isn’t the original premise of Powell’s brilliant blog project the very essence of Julia Child? Here is one of my all-time favorite quotes, as sort of a metaphor for life, and yes, it happens to come from Julia Child:

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”—Julia Child

Kudos to you, Julie, and to your what-the-hell attitude. Even though I’ll probably have to pop a valium after 122 minutes of Amy Adams squealing, I can’t wait to see your story on the big screen!

Summer Beach Reading: Foodie Edition

In Food, Media on June 16, 2009 at 6:53 am

Mama Cape Cod46

Here’s my grandmother on the beach in Cape Cop with a good book and a sack lunch, circa 1946. My grandfather would have just returned home from Paris, where he was stationed during the war. To this day, she is every bit as stylish and always has a good book within arm’s reach. Which got me thinking about summer beach reads. I’ll post soon on some favorite “literary” fashion contenders, but in the meantime my friend Sorina has put together an excellent reading list of chef bios and cookbooks, just in time for the start of summer. I’ll be packing my beach bag posthaste. Thanks, Sorina!


Lollygagging on the sand with a good book, as the surf beats against the shore and an assortment of children and pets scurry around happily engaged is my dream summer scenario. And from where I’m standing, reading chef biographies is just about the most fun you can have without chugging absinthe. Here’s a quick roundup of some essential chef bios and lovely cookbooks that you can stash in your beach tote along with sunscreen:

My Life in France (2006), by Julia Child
This sentimental, beautifully written memoir charts Child’s journey from bored hausfrau in 1940s Paris to French cooking authority and media maven in the States. It stands as the standard by which all cooking memoirs shall be measured against. Child’s “Yes, you can!” message subtly seeps out from every page. It would be corny, unless it weren’t so utterly inspiring. Child was 36 when she signed up for lessons at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and found her vocation in life. Her knack for the adorable anecdote—such as her recounting a first meal in France as an uncouth American lass (with memorable descriptions of oysters slurped off the shell and sweet farmer’s butter smeared on freshly baked baguettes), or the hilarious story of her Parisian cat getting erotically charged and giving her love bites while she attempted a French accent over the telephone—is magical. This book struck me as a lovely, fully humanistic poem about life, love, and cooking. I finished reading it and realized I had fallen for its author. Hard.

Heat (2006) by Bill Buford
Fiction editor of the
New Yorker decides one fair day to ditch his plum job and enlist as a lowly plongeur in the kitchen of Mario Batali’s Babbo NYC restaurant. The resulting diary of his experiences became a series of riveting New Yorker articles, which eventually coalesced into this book. We descend along with Buford into a Hadean realm of spattering grease, un-PC macho behavior and brain-shattering tedium that involves slicing root vegetables and abuse that makes Nazi interment-camp berating look like dancing the minuet. (PS: You get some top dish along the way: Apparently, Batali can put away a dozen wine bottles in one sitting.) Buford’s blend of objective reportage and emotional testimony makes this the ideal go-to tome for anyone who really wants to know what working in the kitchen of a haute-cuisine American restaurant is really like. Halfway through the book, Buford zips off to a tiny provincial town in Italy to learn first-hand the art of butchery at the elbow of Florentine master butcher Dario Cecchini. The ensuing chapters are perfectly informative—but also hilarious, moving, and profound. The critic inside my brain says this effort is couple of books or more awkwardly joined in one package. The person who adores writing and food relishes Buford’s chronicle of a Dante-worthy journey. A grown man who dares to pursue his passion against all reason is a sexy, beautiful thing.

Julie and Julia (2005) by Julie Powell
I stumbled onto this cookery diary with the best of intentions to worship it. Premise: Powell, who holds down a job as a drone at some nondescript Manhattan enterprise, lives in Brooklyn and attempts to cook her way through Julia Child’s 524 recipes included in
Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She blogs about it, and voila—snatches book contract and Hollywood passport. (Meryl Streep is going to play Child in a forthcoming big-studio adaptation of the book, opening in August.) Powell has an engaging voice but her perpetual self-berating, aw-shucks attitude grated my nerves after the first 20 pages. She’s a crap cook, her kitchen is pitifully ill-equiped, and one day she discovers maggots under her cutting board. Et caetera. Still, somehow, the meals she produces from Child’s recipes all have magical qualities much enjoyed by her guests. PLEASE, lady! Still: I admire Powell’s skill for turning this cute personal improvement project into a profitable franchise. Ideas—as a wise man once said—are worth millions.

The Devil in the Kitchen (2007) by Marco Pierre White
If you can demonstrate to me that there’s a more entertaining haute cuisine chef than Marco Pierre White, I volunteer to scrub your dirty dishes clean for the next 12 months. This working-class Brit with the loutish temperament of Dennis Hopper tripping on uppers nabbed 3 Michelin stars in his 20s and became the youngest chef to be awarded the honor. His memoir is a hideously fun chart of that journey. White worked, lived, and played hard. Contempo cookery stars such as Gordon Ramsay and Mario Batali apprenticed under him and took his abuse—only to rise later as respected chefs on their own. White’s haute-French cuisine joints—starting with legendary Harveys in London—have been landmark joints of sophistication, wit and excellence. It’s all the more remarkable since White never set foot in France until his 30s. This laugh-out-loud volume devotes an entire chapter to White’s infamous practice of customer cock-slapping—with a full retelling of the iconic episode of him receiving an order for French fries and charging the unfortunate customer $500 for it. White, who, back in his ’20s, looked as fatalistically glamorous as Arthur Rimbaud, charms even at his most churlish. This is a brutally honest, rude, and delicious read.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: My Adventures in Life and Food (2009) by Moira Hodgson
My first reaction to this memoir was that it’s strictly for devout readers of the
New York Observer, where Hodgson is now a resto critic. By that I mean it struck me as terminally snobby and borderline obnoxious. Hodgson’s personal history of privilege—she sailed on the Normandie ocean liner back in the ’30s! In first class! Just like Marlene Dietrich, natch!—turned me off big-time, initially. Hodgson can’t seem to help herself name-drop—a function of her being a diplomatic brat, I guess. Still, she has some lovely-written passages in here about her discovery that her daddy was a spy—oopsie daisy!—and her love of cooking suckling pig… I half-heartedly endorse it because Hodgson IS a pretty wonderful writer. But invest in it at your own peril.—Sorina Diaconescu