Something We Dreamed

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Posts Tagged ‘cookbooks

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… )


Fashionable Food

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San Francisco's High Fashion "I Dream of Cake" Shop

High Fashion at I Dream of Cake

As I’m researching the history of women writers in the kitchen, I’m noticing a few references to fashion.

For example, the first cookery book printed in America (in 1742) was “The Compleat Houfewife” written by an English woman named Eliza Smith. Ms. Smith published the book with only the initials E.S., but she did identify herself as “a woman constantly employed [by] fashionable…families.”

Fashion and food are still in style.

Take, for instance, San Francisco’s sweet shop I Dream of Cake. In this tiny North Beach store front, cake artist Shinmin Li creates edible sculptures inspired by the handbag designs of fashion houses like Louis Vuitton.

For high tea at London’s Berkeley Hotel, pastry chef Mourad Khiat is recreating the super sexy high heels of Christian Louboutin.

Let’s hope these talented pastry artists can move beyond the realm of accessories. I’d love to be able to shop for the latest sportswear without having to worry about whether or not my designer of choice sells size 18.

“Maybe it’s something we dreamed” – Clementine Paddleford

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Prep for a dish of spring peasWelcome to Something We Dreamed – which is something I’ve dreamed up to help me cope with the formless days of unemployment that are fast approaching. But fear not! I have a new SUNY research project about to begin – on women cookbook authors – and there should be plenty of interesting bits and pieces that I can share with you as the work progresses.

Here’s the first:

“Maybe it’s something we dreamed” is a quote from cookbook author Clementine Paddleford taken from the book Hometown Appetites written by Kelly Alexander and Cynthia Harris. I’ve just started reading, and can not put the book down! Paddleford was the food editor of the New York Herald Tribune and a national correspondent for This Week magazine from 1936 until her death in 1967. In 1953, Time magazine awarded her with the title “Best-Known Food Editor” and, according to the book’s authors, Paddleford was “the first person to truly define ‘regional American food’.”

I’ll tell you more about Ms. Paddleford in my next post. Until then, check out the web site for Hometown Appetites:

– Kate


Dining (and Duking) with Elaine:

It’s Salad Day for Weeds:

The Celery Soda Chronicles:

Written by Kate Blood

May 28, 2009 at 4:16 pm