Bon Appétiiit! Julia Child would have turned 100 on August 15, 2012. Eight years after her death, she remains one of America’s most famous “French chefs.” She loved France, she loved French food… but for some reason, the French never really warmed up to her.
Even worse, many had probably never heard of her until the film Julie and Julia was released. Neither her best-selling cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” nor her biography, “My Life in France,” have been translated for Gallic audiences… even I didn’t really know who she was until a friend of mine loaned me her copy of Julie Powell’s book (that one, by the way, is available in French under the title “Sexe, Blog et Boeuf Bourguignon”).
Nonetheless, now that I live in the United States, I appreciate how great an ambassador Julia Child was for French cuisine and I am thrilled to see that so many restaurants around the country are honoring her with a special Julia Child Restaurant Week from August 7 to 15.
The Food: Where to Celebrate
In Washington, DC, where Julia lived briefly, there are four restaurants participating in her centennial celebration:
- At Central (1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW), Chef Michel Richard is re-creating a dish he once prepared for Julia Child: chicken “Julia” with ratatouille ($24).
- Marcel’s (2401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW) is adding a whole roasted tarragon chicken accompanied by asparagus, braised carrots, mushrooms in Madeira sauce and potatoes dauphinoises to its regular menu on August 15th ($85 for two).
- Chef Ris Lacoste, who prepared Child’s 90th birthday dinner back in 2002, is offering a number of her favorite dishes throughout the month at RIS (2275 L Street NW), available either à la carte or as part of a prix fixe menu.
- Here in Borderstan, Chef David Fritsche at Café Dupont (1500 New Hampshire Avenue NW) is presenting a special three-course Julia Child 100th Birthday Menu from August 7 to 15. The $50 menu includes wine pairing and fabulous dishes like a peach tarte tartin or duck à l’orange. They’re also bringing in New York Times best-selling author Bob Spitz from 6 to 8 pm on August 15. The “Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child” author (and the only writer granted the permission to pen a definitive biography of Julia Child) will answer questions and sign copies of his book.
Earlier on August 15, Spitz will be spending some time at the National Museum of American History. The Smithsonian museum is bringing back Julia Child’s beloved Cambridge, Massachusetts, kitchen for a limited time (through September 3). The kitchen was used as the set of her three television shows and still contains hundreds of tools, appliances and furnishings arranged exactly as they were when Child donated the kitchen to the museum in 2001. In addition to Spitz, who will be signing his book at 2:30 pm, there will be festivities throughout the day and Alex Prud’homme, who co-wrote “My Life in France” with Child, will also be there signing copies of the book (11 am to 1 pm).
As for me, well, I’m still learning about this tall lady who did so much to introduce my country’s food to American audiences. And the best way to do that is by watching old episodes of “The French Chef.” PBS is broadcasting original episodes of the show, some of which have not aired since the 1960’s. And since they’re encouraging viewers to cook alongside of the episodes and to share their creations by posting pictures to PBS Food on Twitter, you might see how well I (and others) fare at re-creating classic Julia Child dishes by following the hashtag #CookForjulia.