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Celebrating Julia Child

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Julia's 90th Birthday Party

Kate & Julia

In his book A History of Cooks and Cooking, author Michael Symons notes that “Mass Foodism” (also known as being a “foodie”) has been on the rise for years — as can be observed in the booming gourmet food/cookware industry as well as soaring sales of cookbooks. Part of this rise, Symons adds, is due to television bringing “foodism to the masses” via charismatic instructors like Julia Child.

Julia Child made what was once intimidating obtainable, and became an international icon after first appearing (in 1963) as “The French Chef” on Public Television. Child’s greatest contribution to the art of cookery, however, is most certainly Volume One of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (published in 1961).

Child (along with her colleagues Simone Beck and Louisette Berholle) spent a decade researching and writing Volume One — the “style and clarity” of which, according to Noel Riley Fitch (author of Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child), makes it “a genuine masterpiece in culinary history.”

In 1950, Child, Beck and Berholle started their work with a goal to create a book novice American cooks could understand, yet would still be “interesting for the practiced cook.” Ten years later, Knopf’s Judith Jones wrote that the soon-to-be-published book “will do for French cooking here in America what Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking did for standard [American] cooking.”

Jones was right: the book has been in print for over 40-years, including a new edition celebrating the release of the film “Julie & Julia” — opening Friday with Oscar-winner Meryl Streep appearing as Ms. Child.

“Julie & Julia” is the first of what might well become many motion pictures based on Child’s fascinating life encompassing great loves, world-wide travels, epic feasts — and perhaps even a stint as a WWII spy. Standing over six-feet-tall, Julia Child’s dynamic physical presence and positive personality drove her ever-increasing popularity as a TV performer and delivered her passion for cooking to an international audience.

Writer Christopher Lydon, quoted in Fitch’s biography, states that: “Queen Julia has done more than [Betty] Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Co. to show American women a model of power in public and expressive self-discovery at home.”

Even after her death (in 2004 at the age of 91), the cult of Julia Child is still hungry for more: DVD collections are available for purchase, her home kitchen has been moved into the Smithsonian Museum, new books are inspired by her life,  bumper stickers read “What Would Julia Do?,” and the truly obsessed can buy devotional candles.

If you haven’t yet had your fill of all things related to ‘the original spice girl,’ check out Flickr’s Julia Child group (lovingly administered by the author of this blog… )

The Fetishization of Everyday Food

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Cheese Dog at Happy Hound

Cheese Dog at Happy Hound

A recent New York Times piece entitled Foie Gras Palates, Hot Dog Pocketbooksdiscusses how the internet’s “infinite real estate” is behind what the author, Frank Bruni, calls our “fetishization of everyday food.”

Bruni suggests his point is illustrated when one types the search term “cupcake blog” into a Google browser and finds the number of cupcake-focused sites (as of today, 2,470,000).

When we write about food, are we really imbuing our crispy bacon strips and extra-dark chocolates with the power of fetish objects associated with sexual gratification, desire or worship?

Is it a sin to Tweet about our favorite recipes or blog about what was on last night’s table? And if I find some psychological fulfillment and emotional satisfaction by simply eating a hot dog (and even taking a picture of it), does that make me a deviant?

Can’t I just be someone with a good appetite and too much free time on her hands?

EAT IT UP: Fascinating Food in the News

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Alameda County Fair

Alameda County Fair

  • French Fry Face Off
  • Are you sure you want to eat there?
  • Looking for a new recipe?
  • If it ain’t deep fried, it’s un-American
  • What we eat when we eat alone: new book from Deborah Madison
  • Forget about fancy sea salts — sugar is now Raising Cane
  • Is Alice Waters a legend?
  • Written by Kate Blood

    July 13, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Foodbuzz Top 9!

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    top9imageOn Foodbuzz today, the “Top 9” is featuring my recipe and photo for Spicy Skirt Steak Tacos with Avocado-Corn Salsa — a recipe which I have to admit is pretty great. (Making the Top 9 means the recipe is one of “the best of 2,679 posts from the Foodbuzz Community based on yesterday’s activity.”)

    I’m proud to be on the same page as Kathy’s Vegas’ lucious looking Pineapple Fritters and The Gourmet Girl’s Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes.

    Written by Kate Blood

    July 8, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    All Hail the King!

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    Kosher-style Beef @ Supreme Dog

    Kosher-style Beef @ Supreme Dog

    Our hometown hero, Joey Chestnut, successfully defended his title Friday in the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest’s first-ever sudden death overtime (New York Daily News).

    I was so excited that I ran over to Top Dog/Supreme Dogwhere Joey trains — for an all beef Kosher-style Frankfurter!

    As I write this, I’m even noshing on a home dog (Bar S brand — 69-cents a pack at FoodMaxx), the breakfast of unemployed champions!

    EAT IT UP
    : More News About Joey Chestnut

    Happy National Hot Dog Month!

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    hotdog

    Who doesn't love hot dogs? *Frankly,* that would be un-American!

    As the Fourth of July approaches, I can’t stop thinking about hot dogs — possibly because the annual Nathan’s pig out is this Saturday.

    My love affair with the link is nothing new. I even run a Flickr group dedicated to world-wide weenies of all shapes and sizes: Hot Dog.

    It seems that I am not alone in my obsession.

    Way back in the 70’s, Mettja C. Roate wrote a cookbook devoting half its pages to tube steaks. Roadfood.com has a forum on hot dogs, sausages and brautwursts (you have to register to access the lively discussion). Hot Dog Chicago Style has a searchable database of restaurants located across the country. In addition, the opinionated HollyEats.com has a Hot Dog Page listing close to a hundred different joints located across this great hot dog loving nation. (Oh, and did I mention The Frankfurter Chronicles?)

    I have a list of my own old favorites and “dying to try” establishments:

    Before dining at any of these or any other fine dawg-serving establishments, I suggest a study of Hot Dog Etiquettte. (Unless, of course, you’re heading to the white trash trailer, ahem, restaurant, Hillbilly Hot Dogs: www.hillbillyhotdogs.com.)

    Just as in the great depression of the 1930s, reds hots are, well, red hot! So far I haven’t seen a “Depression Sandwich” offered on menus (hot dog & fries for a nickle — or four cents if that was all you had — as served at Fluky’s in Chicago).

    Today we have “designer dogs” and restaurants serving “Lobster Dogs.” We even have recipes for lobster corn dogs with truffled hollandaise sauce, with, perhaps, an order of duck fat fries on the side…

    With all the money the weenie industry is making, I think I should join the ranks of the honorable hot dog cart vendor. The cost of running a profitable weenie stand may be high, but I would be doing something I loved. I could even prepare for my new career by simply changing degree programs. Goodbye SUNY-Empire, hello Hot Dog U: The Harvard of Encased Meats!

    EAT IT UP: More Food in Fashion!

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    Written by Kate Blood

    July 2, 2009 at 9:25 am