Last night, sitting on my favourite chair with my feet up on my red stability ball (makes a great hassock!), I slipped the DVD into my laptop and watched Julie & Julia – at last.
This morning, I googled "Julie and Julia" for some material about the film, and up popped the Toronto Globe and Mail's review by Warren Clements, titled "Julie & Julia will leave you hungry for more."
That's an interesting coincidence: this morning, as I tried to think of a title for this review, reliving how I felt after watching it, the impression that kept coming to mind was that it had left me wanting more – not more of the movie, not more food: more of Julia Child herself.
As an amateur cook who had the nerve to open a French restaurant in a small Ontario town in 1972, I didn't really need a French cookbook in English as a source of recipes: after all, I was French-speaking, I had access to "real" French cookbooks, and I had lived in Montreal most of my life where food is practically a religion.
In Montreal, as a downtown office worker I had eaten lunch in French restaurants nearly every weekday. (I remember my delight when cervelle au beurre noir (brains in brown butter) was one of the daily specials.) Socially, I had been invited to French and Belgian friends' homes for dinner regularly where I would watch as the paupiettes de veau and the endives au gratin were being prepared.
But mostly I had lived in France for several months in the late Sixties (where I boarded with a French family) and so I had experienced directly the whole French food thing.
Still, Julia Child was a constant presence in that little restaurant, in 1972. Yes, we cooked some of her recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking and later, when From Julia Child's Kitchen came out, we used her recipe for whole wheat bread word for word in the restaurant. (See my earlier post about this.)
But that's not the real reason that Julia Child was important to the success of the restaurant. It was because the customers had read Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or seen The French Chef TV series on PBS, or heard about them, maybe even cooked from them. My puritanical anglosaxon clientele had become aware that French food existed, and so when I opened the Auberge du Petit Prince in 1972, I feel that Julia had paved the way for it to become the instant hit that it was.
Like the movie last night, she had left them wanting more.