Category Archives: Food

Macaron Monday 4.1.13 Thought of the Day


No that’s not an April Fool’s joke. I have taken the liberty of changing Muffin Monday to Macaron Monday this week. I wanted to try a little something different for Easter this year, and with wild abandon and complete innocence I thought macarons were just the thing.

That’s macaron, not macaroon btw. A macaroon, as in coconut macaroon is an entirely different, if equally delicious, thing.

A macaron is…

a meringue-based cookie made with almond flour, egg whites, and granulated and powdered sugar, then filled with buttercream or fruit spread. The delicate treat has a crunchy exterior, and a weightless interior with a soft ending that’s almost nougat like in its chewiness. []

Macarons can be made by the French, Italian or Swiss method. Now, usually I’d make anything the ITALIAN way when given a choice, but considering the fact that the Italian method includes boiling sugar…um… I went with ze French method for my macarons. (If you are interested in how the three methods vary you might want to CLICK HERE for the Macaron Master]


You’ve probably got all the equipment you need to make French macarons in your kitchen cabinets…

  • liquid measuring cups
  • dry measuring cups
  • food processor
  • sifter
  • medium mesh strainer
  • mixer
  • spatula
  • parchment paper
  • cookie trays
  • cooling racks
  • pastry bag with a #8 tip (or if you are cheap and inventive like me.. a ziplock bag with a 1/2″ cut off the corner.)
  • bowls

You’ll also need a template to slip under your parchment paper so you’ll know how big to make the macarons. (Here’s my fancy Easter colored template… feel free to print it out and use it.)

macaron template2

Macarons are best baked in a convection oven. But don’t despair you can still make them if your oven is of the conventional variety. Just take care with the timing.


  • 2 3/4 cups of almond flour

IMG_4609(You can find it at higher end food stores  — locally I found it at Wegmans — and cake supply shops)

  • 2 3/4 cups of powdered sugar
  • IMG_46051 cup of egg whites (it took 7 extra large eggs for me to get 1 cup of egg whites) room temperature


  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt


  • 3/4 cups of granulated sugar (superfine granulated if you can find it.) [Confession: I used powdered sugar here, and I didn’t have any superfine granulated, and I thought it would be better than regular sugar… next time I’ll use real sugar.]

Additional ingredients:

You’ll also need the following for dusting the macarons and for the filling:

  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (additional)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (additional)


Step one: Prepare the cookie sheets. Put your template on the cookie sheet, then put the parchment paper on top. trim the parchment paper to fit the sheet. I made three copies of my template and taped them together, so there was extra paper  at the end. That way I could easily pull it out from under the parchment paper once the macaron batter is  piped on to it.

Step two: In a food processor combine the powdered sugar and the almond flour.

Process until it is a fine powder. Sift it into a medium bowl.

Powder sugar on the left; almond flour on the right, before being processed

Powder sugar on the left; almond flour on the right, before being processed

Process until it is completely combined and is a fine powder.


This is what it looks like once the two ingredients are mixed together.
I processed it in short pulses for about a minute. (Long enough for the dog to start barking at the noise.)

Using the sifter, sift it into a medium bowl.

Then sift it again through the mesh strainer into a large bowl.

IMG_4612Your goal is to get the almond flour mixture as fine as possible. You may have some small “pebbles” of almond flour that don’t go through the strainer. If this happens sift additional almond flour and powder sugar to compensate. I had  about 1/2 cup of almond flour pebbles (stuff that didn’t go through the mesh of the strainer) so I sifted an additional 1/4 of almond flour and 1/4 cup of powdered sugar to compensate. (Save the almond flour pebbles.)

This is what the very small almond "pebbles" looked like. Put them aside for later.

This is what the very small almond “pebbles” looked like. They are smaller than couscous, but large enough that we’d have  lumpy macarons. (And no one likes lumpy macarons.)

Step Three: With an electric mixer beat the egg whites and salt. Start slowly and gradually increase the speed.

About a minute into beating the egg whites and salt. Use the whisk attachment on you mixer.

About a minute into beating the egg whites and salt. Use the whisk attachment on you mixer.

The whites will start to froth up and rise. Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue whipping until the mixture forms STIFF peaks and is firm and shiny.

Its so FLUFFY! The egg whites, salt and powdered sugar made nice stiff peaks (it I'd used granulated sugar it would have been glossy and probably have worked even better. Duh!)

It’s so FLUFFY! The egg whites, salt and powdered sugar made nice stiff peaks (if I’d used granulated sugar it would have been glossy and probably have worked even better. Duh!)

This takes a while, but patience is a virtue.

Step Four: Fold the egg white mixture into the dry mixture. Use a rubber spatula to gently mix the ingredients, scraping from the bottom of the bowl up.

Folding the egg white mixture into the dry mixture.

Folding the egg white mixture into the dry mixture.

Don’t over mix, but be sure to get all the dry mixture incorporated into the egg white mixture.

Step Five: Pre heat the oven to 300 degrees for a convection oven (325 degrees for a conventional oven)

Step Six: Put 1/2 the batter into the pastry bag (or ziplock bag with the snipped corner — ZIP UP THE BAG). Hold the pastry bag vertically over the center of a template circle and gently squeeze until enough batter comes out to fill the diameter of the circle. Lift and gently twist. You aren’t trying to get a peak here, like you would for a meringue. Repeat until all the circles are filled. Carefully remove your template and do a second Tray.

First batch as I'm piping the batter onto the parchment. (You can see the template under the parchment paper. I slid that out before the cookies went into the oven.)

First batch as I’m piping the batter onto the parchment. (You can see the template under the parchment paper. I slid that out before the cookies went into the oven.)

I don’t have a picture of me actually piping the batter on the cookie trays. Sorry I didn’t have enough hands to hold the bag and the camera.

Give the tray a gentle tap on your work surface to get rid of bubbles and smooth out the tops of the macarons.

Step Seven: WAIT! I know its hard now that you can see the macarons actually taking shape, but you’ve got to wait 15 minutes before you put them in the oven. Waiting will give the macarons “legs” and will help you build character.

I KNOW you know what a time looks like. I'm putting this in to emphasis that you need to wait 15 minutes. Don't forget... seriously.

I KNOW you KNOW what a timer looks like. I’m putting this in to emphasis that you need to wait 15 minutes. Don’t forget… seriously.

Step Eight: Bake the macarons for 5 minutes. Open the oven door for 30 seconds — to let out steam– close the door and CONTINUE baking for another 10 minutes. Set up your cooling rack if you haven’t already done so. (HINT: make sure they are far out of reach of any cats or cockapoos.)

Step Nine: When the macarons have baked a total of 15 minutes take them out of the oven. CAREFULLY slide the parchment sheet off the cookie tin and onto the cooling rack and COOL completely.

You can now repeat steps Six-Nine with the second half of the batter. I dusted my second batch with cocoa and some of the almond pebbles I reserved earlier.

Second batch ready to go into the oven.

Second batch ready to go into the oven.

Second batch -- finished baking, ready to cool.

Second batch — finished baking, ready to cool.

Step Ten: While you are waiting for the macarons to cool you can start to make the filling. Filling for macarons can be as simple as jam or as complex as ganache. I chose homemade Chocolate Almond Buttercream Frosting. (See the ingredient listed above. (After cleaning your mixing bowl and whisk attachment) combine all the ingredients in the mixer and blend until smooth. Put into a clean pastry bag (or another ziplock bag with the corner snipped out).

Pair the macarons so they are close in shape and size. Turn half the macarons upside down (so the flat side is up). Pipe the frosting onto the flat side of the macaron. Top with its mate and give a gentle quarter turn. Repeat with the rest of the macarons.

Assembled macaroons.

Assembled plain macaroons.


Finished Chocolate Almond macaron.

Finished Chocolate Almond macaron.

Results: I like to bake using a minimum of bowls and kitchen gadgets. I like simple (ish) recipes. I also like for the recipe to have at least a whiff of nutritional value. Macarons fit none of those baking preferences.  These took lots of time, lots of money, and lots of effort to make. The recipe only yielded 2 dozen filled French macarons. But they are light as a feather and delightfully delicious.  And all my tasters wanted to know when I would make the next batch, so I guess they were a hit.

They reminded Mary B of meringues, but better because of the filling. She “really enjoyed them.”

Mike R. commented that “The crunch of the initial sensation on the teeth is met soon after by the yielding into a second layer of heavenly sweetness just inside the delicate outer layers.  As the palate then becomes aware of the fleshy interior of the “cookie”, it is surprised by the soft and flavorful filling (in this case chocolate buttercream).  The trio soon starts to meld and melt together, though not completely, giving a variety of textures and tastes to explore. ” He’s tried store bought macarons and found them to be “overly-dried almost like delicate styrofoam. I’ve also tasted plain fresh macarons from bakeries in New York City, but none come close to freshly baked deliciousness of these cookie gems…..”

Jackie R gave them an A+, saying “they were delicious and had just enough ‘bite and chew’ to be substantial, yet sweet and light enough to make me wiggle my toes a little.”


I was inspired by Cecile Cannone’s Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the Macaron Cafe. It is a well written, well illustrated little book that will get you on your way to proper macaroning.

Muffin Monday! Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Almond Muffins


Welcome to the second edition of MUFFIN MONDAY on ritaLOVEStoWRITE! I got a lot of good feed back on last week’s blog so it looks like this muffin thing might be a go. See my disclaimer on last week’s Muffin Monday blog.


Here’s my vegan (I think) recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Almond Muffins.  Let me know what you think…




Chocolate Zucchini Almond Muffins






  • 2 Cups of Flour




  • 1/2 cup of Truvia (or 1 cup of sugar)




  • 2 Teaspoons of Baking SODA




  • 4 Tablespoons of Vegetable Oil




  • 8 Tablespoons of Cocoa




  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla




  • 1 Teaspoon of Almond Extract


[Image courtesy:]

[Image courtesy:]



  • 4 Teaspoons of Vinegar




  • 2 Cups of Water





  • 1  Zucchini, grated




  • 1/2 cup of Sliced Almonds






Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.


Step One: Put the flour, Truvia/sugar, baking soda, vegetable oil, cocoa, vanilla and almond extract and mix. The interaction between the vinegar and the baking soda is what makes these muffins rise — it’s muffin magic!




Step Two: Add the water and the zucchini, and mix. The batter will be on the liquid-y side.




Step Three: Prepare the muffin cups (this recipe will make 18 muffins.) Put “muffin pants” into the tin and spray lightly with cooking spray.




Divide the batter evenly into the muffin cups. They should be almost full.


Step Four: Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top the muffins.




Place into hot oven and bake for 25 -30 minutes until a tooth pick stuck into the center of the muffin comes out clean. These are VERY moist muffins. It couldn’t hurt to bake them an extra 5 minutes.


Let cool and enjoy.




My expert college muffin testers agree, these muffins are well worth the effort. They give them two thumbs up. Ms. Lehmann says : “They are delicious and the most fluffy things I have ever eaten.” While Ms. Schmidt simply replied “Yummmmmmmmmy!” ..and was curious when I might be sending more. Ahhh girls– there’s always next week. 🙂




Question to my Vegan friends… did I do it? Do these qualify as Vegan Friendly? No diary or animal  by-product. I think I’m safe, but I need a bona fide Vegan to give me the blessing.


If you’ve got a recipe you’d like to share (with me and with the followers of this blog) please send me an email at


Thought of the Day 9.27.12 Clementine Paddleford

“Beer is the Danish national drink, and the Danish national weakness is another beer. ”

“Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where you backbone ought to be.”
Clementine Paddleford

Clementine Paddleford was born on this day in Stockdale (near Manhattan), Kansas in 1898. She grew up with a strong connection to the land and people who tilled it.

Clementine Paddleford as a girl. [Image courtesy: K-State Libraries]

She rode a horse to school, where she learned to love writing at an early age. She loved food too. She learned to cook by her mother’s side in their Kansas kitchen.

In a memoir called “A Flower for My Mother,” she wrote of fresh-picked corn and strawberries, ice cream made from new-fallen snow. [A Life in the Culinary Front Lines, by R.W. Apple, Jr, 11/30/05 The New York Times]

At 15 she worked for the Manhattan (Kansas) Daily Chronicle writing “personals” — She would borrow the family car and go down to the meet the 4 A.M. train for Kansas City and report  on which locals got on the train. It wasn’t journalism at its finest, but it was her first paid gig. She went to Kansas State Agriculture College and graduated in 1921 with a degree in Industrial Journalism. Industrial Journalism was a “boys club,” most women took home economics, and Paddleford was a trailblazer.

She moved from Manhattan, Kansas to Manhattan, New York and attended the Columbia School of Journalism at night while she worked reviewing books for Administration (a business magazine) and the New York Sun during the day. She specifically requested lengthy, more difficult, scientific books because, although she only earned $3 or $4 for a review, she could usually sell the book for $5 to a dealer. She also wrote women’s features for the New York Sun and the New  York Telegram

Later Paddleford became the woman’s editor for Fame and Fireside working there until 1929. When a change of management led to her leaving the publication she began to write on a freelance basis, mostly about food.

At home writing. [Image courtesy: The New School]

At 34 she was hospitalized for a malignant tumor on her larynx. She had the growth removed, along with her vocal chords. The operation left her with a breathing tube, and she had to re-learn how to talk. Her voice was never the same and she declined to speak in public after the operation. As for the breathing tube? She took it in stride.

She disguised the tube with a velvet choker that became part of her trademarked look and continued with her work. [the Found Recipe Box]

She worked as a food editor at the New York Herald-Tribune for 30 years from 1935-1966 bringing her signature editorial point of view to reviews and recipes. She made…

forty dollars a week to write six half-columns of advice to New York housewives on buying and eating. The job sounded like a cinch to Paddleford. Half a column a day shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. And forty dollars was bread and butter. But what with her conscientiousness and her growing interest in the job, it wasn’t long before she was putting in as much as twelve hours a day combing food markets and writing the column. [Clementine Paddleford: her Passion is Food, by Josef Israels II, K-State Libraries; ]

She also did a weekly column at This Week Magazine and a monthly column for Gourmet Magazine. At her peak in the 1950’s and 1960’s she had 12 million readers.

Prior to Paddleford, food was treated in a dry academic manner. A recipe was just a list of numbers… x amount of flour… z amount of time in the oven… Paddleford brought the  food life. She told a story around the recipe.

Before Paddleford, newspaper food sections were dull primers on home economy. But she changed all of that, composing her own brand of sassy, unerringly authoritative prose designed to celebrate regional home cooking…[from the book description of Hometown Appetites: The Story of Clementine Paddleford]

She did the same when reviewing a restaurant or exploring the local cuisine …

We opened the mail one morning to learn a barrel of frogs’ legs… was coming our way. They came. We gave half of them away and cooked the rest for an important little dinner for three. The very thought of frogs’ legs sent memories reaching back to our first interest in the “greenies”—as we used to call frogs. Then we children were the hunters along the banks of a creek out Kansas way. We were small savages with clubs who caught froggies with a wallop over their noggins, took them home, and ate the shanks, a choice morsel. We’d wind up with only a few mouthfuls after a couple of hours’ work, but it seemed worth the effort. [Food Flashes, Clementine Paddleford, March 1951, Gourmet Magazine]

Paddleford was a food explorer too. She loved to go to remote places and discover the local cuisine. She learned to fly so she could get to places more quickly. She even had dinner on a nuclear submarine to see what the sailors had in the mess hall. (She came away from the encounter with a recipe for hamburger pie for 100 and one for brownies for 80.)

Well, I couldn’t write about Clementine Paddleford without sharing one of her recipes. Here is Hurry-Up Marble Cake

Hurry-Up Marble Cake

Here’s an old-time marble cake with a new-time trick, one double quick–no splitting the batter. Use your spatula as a wand–marbleize by magic. Pour the batter into layer-cake pans, drizzle over syrup made without cooking, using a ready-prepared cocoa. Swirl the spatula through the layers and dark chocolate spirals will show when the cake’s cut. The same method can be used to marbleize the frosting. Another day bake the marble loaf.

Double Marble Cake

1/2 cup instant sweet milk cocoa
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1 cup milk

Combine cocoa and water; stir until smooth. Set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Combine shortening and vanilla. Gradually add sugar and cream well. Add egg yolks and egg, one at a time, and beat well. Add flour mixture alternately with milk. Pour into 2 9-inch round cake pans lined with wax paper. Drizzle cocoa mixture back and forth over both layers. With a spatula or knife, “swirl” through batter to marbleize. Bake at 325°F. 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans, peel off paper. Cool thoroughly. Frost with marble frosting. Yield: 1 9-inch layer cake.

Marble Frosting

Combine 1/2 cup instant sweet milk cocoa with 2 tablespoons boiling water and stir until smooth; set aside. Combine 2 egg whites, 1/3 cup water, 1 1/2 cups sugar and 2 teaspoons white corn syrup (or substitute 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar) and beat constantly over boiling water with rotary beater for 7 minutes, or until frosting holds its shape. Remove from water and beat for 2 minutes. Pour cocoa mixture over top of frosting in double boiler; do not stir. Spread between layers and on top and sides of cake. Frosting will become marbleized when spread.

Quick Marble Loaf Cake

Combine 1/2 cup instant sweet milk cocoa with 1 1/2 tablespoons milk; stir until smooth, set aside. Sift together 2 cups sifted cake flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Combine 1/2 cup shortening and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar and cream well. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, and beat well. Add dry ingredients alternately with 3/4 cup milk. Fold in chocolate mixture gently several times to marbleize batter. Pour into a 10x5x3-inch pan lined with wax paper. Bake at 350°F. for 1 hour. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan, peel off paper and cool cake thoroughly. Yield: 1 loaf cake. []

Mike & Rita make a Glorious Pecan Pie

This morning I stopped my buddy Mike’s house to do some baking since my oven is on the fritz. I had some rhubarb and Mike had some pecans… you know what that means… pies!

Since Mike has never made a blog I thought this would be a good tutorial for him. So here goes…

Pie Ready to Bake

Mike’s friend Gloria is from the South and KNOWs all about Pecans, so her recipe was perfect for our first venture into Pecan Pies !

Gloria’s Pecan Pie Recipe

  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • dash salt
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • mix all together
  • add 1 cup pecan halves or pieces

pour into unbaked pie shell.  Bake 350  for 50 mins.  pie shell can be frozen or refrigerator crust your choice.

Step By Step Pictures

First we add the eggs to the sugar so we can cream them together. The graininess of the sugar breaks up the membranes from inside the eggs and the eggs help liquify the sugar. This makes a smooth consistency that makes it easy to add the remaining liquid ingredients.

Cracking the 3 eggs

Adding the 2/3 cup of sugar

… and the sugar

And whisk together with a whisk

Beat It (MJ)

Add a dash of salt.  (Yeah, we didn’t take a picture of that, we guessed y’all know how to do a dash of salt.)

Next comes the Dark Corn Syrup — we use Karo Syrup. That’s K-ROW syrup for y’all from the South who are following along.

Adding the Kara

Add the melted butter

Pouring the Melted Butter into mixture

Adding the Pecans…

“Natural Pecans” into the mix (as though there was another kind??)

Whisk and Mix together (“Whix”)

All the ingredients in one big bowl

Ready to fill ‘er up

Into the mighty pie shell at last !!!

The recipe makes one 9 inch pie and we made the recipe twice… (shhhh, the pics are from either batch)… After all, we’ve got college and high school kids to feed!

To paraphrase Julia Child … don’t keep opening the oven door to check on your baked goods. You just let the heat out and cause the temperature to go up and down. So look though the window in the oven door and time your pie carefully.

And here are the two beauties hot out of the oven …

Ahhhh, wish you could smell over the internet, don’t you?
Our pie was too hot to slice, but we found this awesome pie image on (You should go visit them right now.)

And now Mikey has learned how to make a great pecan pie, AND he’s also learned how to use our pictures and wordpress to make a nice blog about our Journey Together this morning 🙂    [Rita’s note: SWEET!]

Thought of the Day 9.9.12 “Colonel” Sanders

“There’s no reason to be the richest man in the cemetery. You can’t do any business from there.

— “Colonel” Harland Sanders

Col. Harland Sanders, 77, head of the multimilion-dollar Kentucky Fried Chicken chain, is shown in 1968. (AP Photo) [Image Courtesy: CBS News]

Harland David Sanders was born on this day  near Henryville, Indiana in 1890. Today is the 122nd anniversary of his birth.

He lived in poverty in rural Indiana sharing a four room shack with his father, mother, brother and sister. His father, a farmer and a butcher, died when Harland was 6 and his mother went to work in a tomato-canning factory to help support the family. Harland took on many of the household chores including taking care of his younger siblings and doing the cooking.

He dropped out of school at 12. At 15 he lied about his age and joined the US Army. He spent most of his Army career in Cuba as a mule driver. When he was honorably discharged and returned to the States where…

As a young businessman before he became “Colonel”. (Image courtesy: Wikipedia)

he worked as an insurance salesman, steamboat pilot, and farmer. It wasn’t until he reached the ripe age of 40… that his famous success with chicken began. [The Corner Office.]

During the Depression Sanders opened a service station in Corbin, Kentucky and began to sell chicken, ham and steak dinners on the side. Eventually the meals, which he actually sold out of his living quarters next door to the service station, became so popular that he moved to Sanders Cafe a 142 seat restaurant at a nearby motel. He slowly perfected his recipe for fried chicken. Some estimates say it took over 1,000 tries to get the proper mix of herbs and spices  for his “special recipe.” Sanders used a pressure fryer instead of frying pan to speed up the cooking process and seal in the meat’s juices.

In 1935 Kentucky governor Ruby Laffoon gave him the honorary title of “Kentucky Colonel”.  By 1950 he had grown his trademark mustache and goatee — which he bleached white to match his hair — and took to wearing a white suit and black string tie at all public appearances.

Photo promoting the (real) Sanders’ visit to Santa Ana KFC on May 26, 2011 — 29 plus years after the Colonel’s death. But don’t worry Southern CA, it wasn’t some Zombie in a white suit and string tie. It was the Second Generation Colonel. The man in the photo above, however, is the real deal. [Image courtesy: New Santa Ana]

When an interstate reduced the traffic to his restaurant he started to look at the franchising model as a way to grow his business.

In 1955, confident of the quality of his fried chicken, the Colonel devoted himself to developing his chicken franchising business. Less than 10 years later, Sanders had more than 600 KFC franchises in the U.S. and Canada, and in 1964 he sold his interest in the U.S. company for $2 million [KFC, History]

He moved to Mississauga, Ontario and concentrated on building his Canadian chain while continuing to make appearances on both sides of the 49th parallel.

Sander’s image has been modernized over the years for use as Kentucky Fried Chicken’s icon. [Image courtesy: USA Today.]

Sanders didn’t always get along with the mega corporation that took over KFC America, Heublein, Inc. He sued the organization when it used his image to promote products he didn’t develop. Heublein, for their part, sued the Colonel for libel when he said of  their gravy:

“My God, that gravy is horrible… They buy water for 15 to 20 cents per thousand gallons and then they mix it with flour and starch and end up with pure wallpaper paste…To the wallpaper paste they add some sludge and sell it for 65 or 75 cents a pint. There’s no nutrition in it and they ought not to be allow to sell it.” [The Colonel’s Kitchen]

The Colonel had a philanthropic side as well and he funded many charities and scholarships. He diagnosed with leukemia in June of 1980, Colonel Sanders died of pneumonia the following december.

Bobble head of the Colonel at the Colonel Sanders Museum (Image Courtesy: Brent K. Moore.)

There is now a museum honoring the Colonel and all things KFC in Corbin Kentucky at the site of the original restaurant. To learn more about the museum go here (for a link to the Corbin County tourism link) or here (for a personal take on the museum by Brent Moore).

Thought of the Day 8.15.12 Julia Child

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook”

Julia Child

Julia McWilliams was born on this day in Pasadena, California in 1912. Today is the 100th Anniversary of her birth.

“Juju” was the oldest of three children in the McWilliams household. Their father was a real estate magnet, their mother a paper-company heiress and daughter of a lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. Julia was vivacious, athletic (she was 6’2″ by the time she graduated the exclusive Katherine Branson School for Girl’s in San Francisco) and loved a good laugh. She studied writing at Smith College and worked in advertising after graduation.

During WWII Julia tried to join the Woman’s Army Corps, but she was too tall to be a WAC, so she volunteered at the OSS, a government intelligence agency. She started as a typist in Washington but worked her way up to researcher for Top Secret intelligence. She worked overseas in China and Sri Lanka. The SPY Museum in Washington DC included a display on Julia’s time in the OSS as part of their collection. In 2009 they held a special event featuring Child’s Coq au Vin and a talk about the chef’s life as a spy.

While she was in Sri Lanka on assignment she met fellow OSS employee Paul Child and the two began to date. In 1946 Paul and Julia were married. When Paul, now in the US State Department, was assigned to Paris the couple moved to France.

Julia loved food and loved a challenge, so she started to take classes at the Cordon Bleu cooking school. After graduation she worked with her colleagues Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle to start The School of the Three Gourmands for American women in Paris. The three started to write a cookbook that would translate French cuisine to the American kitchen. After a lot of hard work and many revisions that cookbook became Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a best selling cookbook that changed the way people looked at French cuisine.

When Julia promoted the book by cooking an omelet on-air  at her local PBS station the response was so good that they offered her  her own cooking show for $50 a pop.  The French Chef premiered on WGBH Boston in 1962. It was the first cooking show on PBS. It ran for 10 years  and was syndicated nation wide. The show won a Peabody and Emmy award (Julia was first educational television personality to receive an Emmy. In her career she was nominated for a total of eight and won three). In 1966 Time Magazine anointed Julia as a culinary goddess by putting her on the cover with the title “Our Lady of the Ladle.” A dozen more TV shows (with bigger budgets) followed. You can still catch reruns of Baking with Julia on PBS. She used 753 pounds of butter during the filming of that series alone.

She wrote sixteen more cookbooks, most  were associated with her television series.

She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush in 2003. Her autobiography My Life in France was published posthumously. Her kitchen, designed by her husband Paul, is now installed at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC.

Blogger Julie Powell digested the  Mastering the Art of French Cooking, working her way — recipe by recipe– through the  752 page book in one year. She documented the journey in a book, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (which was then made into a movie, Julie & Julia starring Meryl Streep in 2009.)

“Something came out of Julia on television that was unexpected… it was just magical.  You can’t fake that. You can’t take classes to learn how to be wonderful. Our food culture is the better for it. Our stomaches are the better for it. ” — Julie Powell

This week restaurants are celebrating Julia’s 100th birthday by  featuring some of her most famous recipes.

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