Julia Child, drunk on her own authority

December 12, 2009 – Part of Julia Child’s charm is that she nonchalantly became her own authority. One of my favorite quotes is her description of her “brand-new, super-duper” Chocolate Mousse Dessert Cake:

“And here it is: Le Gâteau Victoire au Chocolat, Mousseline! One of the great chocolate cakes of all time, according to me.”

Not, “in my opinion,” but “according to me.” Who says that? A master citing herself, that’s who.

She restates this notion of self-authority in the same television segment, a guide to an intimate tableside cooking of Steak Diane:

“So, as I said at the beginning before we started cooking, I think this is a nifty little dinner (and I really agree with myself) for a chafing dish dinner.”

The menu (which she pronounces “may-noo”) of this very simple feast includes:
  • A cold first course, a ceviche [“sev-EE-chee”] of scallops, with fresh artichoke bottoms
  • Steak Diane (“cooked in a chafing dish, right at the table”)
  • Mashed potatoes, “made out of actual potatoes, which is a rare thing” (rare in 1978, I guess)
  • Fresh peas
  • The cake, made with a full pound of chocolate
Child must have imbibed quite a bit of alcohol on a daily basis, I think. I cannot believe that someone whose recipes and menus included such a prodigious amount of spirits, and a kitchen so well-stocked with them, did not start drinking around lunchtime.

For this meal alone, the following alcohols are used:

As ingredients:
  • For the cake, rum.
  • For the steak’s sauce, “a little bit of Madeira or port… [plus] a few drops of cognac” added at the last minute for taste. (“That never hurt anything.”)
Served with the meal:
  • “With the Steak Diane, I would serve a nice red Bordeaux, or a cabernet, and with the first course, the ceviche, you could serve a chablis or Riesling.”
  • And with the dessert, “a fine bottle of vintage champagne, maybe one of the great California wines.”
Bon appétit, à la vôtre, and enjoy the video.

(From Julia Child & Company, 1978.)

– p.k.

2/21/11  |  Postscript: I am amused to see that many Google searches leading readers to this page include the words julia+child+drunk, was+julia+child+drunk, or words to that effect. No, my headline is only a play on words, reflecting Child’s citation of herself as an authority, and her love of using alcohol in her cooking. Her producer, Geoffrey Drummond, watched the 700+ shows that survive on tape, and never once saw her drinking from a bottle or exhibiting signs of inebriation (or, for that matter, dropping a chicken or reusing food that fell on the floor).

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