I just finished watching "Julia and Julie", an American film by Nora Ephron (When Harry met Sally) which parallels the lives of two women, Julia Child, a sort of synthesis of Maïté, Mapie, Philippe Etchebestand Julie Andrieuwhose kitchen has even been installed in a museum, and Julie Powell, a young American who is challenging herself, forty years later, to make the 524 recipes in Julia Child's book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in one year.
Cooking and the love of cooking
This is not a film about cooking, but about the love of cooking, and above all, about what the practice of cooking can bring to women whose lives are not "perfect", far from it.
I haven't always loved "cooking". I have always liked to entertain my friends and offer them a plentiful and tasty table. Twenty years ago, a friend of mine was a great fan of Robuchon, he had bought one of his books and made his own "challenge" by making one or two of the great chef's recipes every weekend. I couldn't understand why anyone would make life so complicated.
Many trips, many restaurants, two expatriations later, my life started to get really difficult. On a scale of 1 to 10, Julia Child would be a 3, Julie Powell a 5, and I would be a 9.50.
And then, without any particular challenge, I started cooking. Reading and collecting cooking blogs. Imagining all those recipes, making some of them. Experimenting, trying to recreate world flavours in my Casablanca kitchen, without having the ingredients. Diving into old cookbooks from the last centuryand even from the century before last, thanks to the magic of the internet.
To "collect" recipes. And, like Julie, to share with my friends, but also on a blog.
The Julia Child phenomenon
It is unfair that Julia, who was the great ambassador of French "family" cooking, is so little known in France. This tall woman, a little physically borrowed because of her height (what an acting performance, by the way, by Meryl Streep who is "only" 1,68m !) plunged passionately into the discovery of our cuisine when she accompanied her husband to France after the war.
She followed a high-level professional training course at the famous Cordon Bleu school and soon began to give lessons to her fellow countrymen. With two friends, she embarked on what would be her life's work: "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".
She went on to give demonstrations and TV shows, and her book was regularly republished.
A bon vivant, she carefully tested and retested her recipes, with her two friends, until they were perfect.
She had fun on television, and never flinched when something went wrong: instead of redoing the take, she explained how to make up for mistakes and save a dish.
Adapting French cuisine for American women
At the time, globalisation was not what it has become. Many ingredients were not found on the other side of the Atlantic. Animals, fruits and vegetables were not perfectly identical.
The servings were not the same either, Julia explains at the beginning of her book that the quantities given for three people would be suitable for six in France, pointing out that the service is not the same: starter, main course and dessert in the United States (hors d'oeuvre), starter, main course, salad, cheese and dessert in France!
And, of course — and this has not changed — the measureswere not the same either. But here we are still at the same point, cups and spoons on one side, grams and centilitres on the other!