The Julia Childs
October 14, 2013 10:27 PM   Subscribe

If you become a cultural icon, those who come after in your field will almost certainly be compared to you and your achievements. And if you were the late Julia Child, ground-breaking television chef and champion of French cooking in the United States, you would find your name to be the first half of a lot of comparisons. The Julia Childs, as it were.

Famous within their respective specialities, these pioneering women vary greatly in their fame among the general populace. This list is not exhaustive (indeed it includes none of the Julia Childs of Yoga or Gardening or Crochet or Rock 'n' Roll or any number of other activities which are legion on their own), and there may well be more Julia Childs in the future. But this is a starter, an appetizer … an apéritif, if you will.

The Julia Childs of world cuisines in the USA:

Mexican: Diana Kennedy

She has received awards from the Mexican government as well as worldwide awards and acclaim for her tireless research and publication on the vast array of Mexican techniques, ingredients, and dishes. Her first book was The Cuisines of México (1972); her latest, Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy (2010). "The Julia Child of Mexico?" she says in a 2012 Saveur article "Oh dear, what nonsense." Previously on MeFi: "Wahaca".

Indian: Madhur Jaffrey

Author, chef, actress, teacher, and TV star, she is one of the leading authorities on Indian cuisine, particularly transforming them for the Western palate. Her first book, An Invitation to Indian Cooking (1973) has become a classic; her latest is My Kitchen Table: 100 Essential Curries (2011). And if that weren't enough, she might well be responsible for introducing James Ivory and Ismail Merchant (whose films she has also starred in). Italian: Marcella Hazan

Her famous tomato sauce alone is enough to elevate her to the immortals, but Hazan (who passed away only two weeks ago) was a gifted writer, multiple award-winner, and absolute expert on Italian food. Her books include everything from The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating (1973) to Amarcord: Marcella Remembers (2008).

In 2008, Authors@Google hosted Hazan and her husband, and the hour-long talk is available on YouTube.

See the recent MeFi post by helmutdog at the time of her passing for more links: Marcella Hazan - A Culinary Giant.

Persian: Najmieh Batmanglij

An Iranian-American born in Tehran, exiled to France where she began her career in cooking and published her first cookbook, in French: Ma Cuisine d'Iran (1984). She has become a renowned teacher, chef, and author in the United States, where she settled in Washington DC. In 2011, she published an updated, 25th-anniversary version of her classic Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies. As her Wikipedia page points out, "Her sons are Rostam Batmanglij of the band Vampire Weekend, and Zal Batmanglij, director of the 2011 Sundance film Sound of My Voice."

Vietnamese/Asian: Corinne Trang

The Washington Post christened her with "the Julia Child of Asian Cuisine", which is a heavy mantle to bear. But Trang has formed a career over the last 20 years as a chef, author, professor, food TV/radio guest, lecturer, yoga instructor, wellness coach, and expert on Vietnamese and other Asian cuisines. Jamaican/Caribbean: Norma Shirley

She never published a cookbook, but was a world-famous chef, TV guest, and restauranteur in Jamaica and the US. She passed away in 2010.

Four of her recipes can be found in this Jamaica Observer article: Norma's Catch of the Day -- Salt-fish Bull Jhol or 'Pick-up' Codfish, Steamed fish in vegetable broth with bammy, Tomato with Buffalo Mozzarella and Fresh Basil, and Tomatoes with Anchovies, Orange and Olives.

Other Julia Childs: Julia Childs for their own countries: And just so we don't forget why we're all gathered here today, here is an early episode of the inimitable (well…) Julia Child (singular): Boeuf Bourguignon, and again in 1987 with David Letterman.

posted by Celsius1414 (31 comments total) 186 users marked this as a favorite
I wasn't hungry, but now I am.
posted by Mizu at 10:35 PM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Half of what I say is meaningless.

But I say it just to reach you, Julia.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:06 PM on October 14, 2013 [13 favorites]

What an excellent posting! Thank you for gathering all of this information and sharing it with us.

Looks like my Amazon wishlist has some updating to do
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:34 PM on October 14, 2013

here is an early episode

ses débuts épisode
posted by stbalbach at 11:57 PM on October 14, 2013

this. is the best of the web.
posted by el io at 11:58 PM on October 14, 2013

Awesome that you've included Persian cooking too! I'm really tempted to get Batmanglij's Food of Life book.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:35 AM on October 15, 2013

Outstanding post. Looking forward to trying some of these recipes.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:52 AM on October 15, 2013

I hadn't heard of Madhur Jaffrey until I moved in with my current roommate, who regards "An Invitation to Indian Cooking" as only slightly south of scripture. Fascinating story.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:31 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here is a candidate for the Thai Julia Childs: Su-Mei Yu
posted by troll on a pony at 1:57 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

In some respects Elizabeth David is an appropriate comparison because she was another anglophone popularising a foreign cuisine in her own country (whereas many of these are popularising the cuisine of their own ethnic background, and in the second list even doing it in the original country).

But I think she was actually earlier than Julia Child and distinctly more literary. She wasn't about teaching how to cook - her books were often written in general terms, assuming you didn't need more than a few pointers - and she never did television.

So I'm afraid the English Julia Child is actually Fanny Craddock.
posted by Segundus at 2:34 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Other British Julia Childs:

England - Mrs Beeton
England - Delia Smith

and Fanny Craddock, mentioned above.

In terms of impact on British cuisine two huge, within the restaurant trade but little known popularly are Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers. Rose Gray died in 2010. Neither of them were ever truly TV chefs despite a TV series on Channel 4, but their alumni are legion: Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Sam and Sam Clark (Moro), Theo Randall and many others. The list is enormous. They influenced an entire generation of restaurant and TV chefs. Their approach to ingredients, flavours, simplicity and seasonal produce was so far ahead of its time and from a single restaurant in Hammersmith they have had a far reaching influence on how modern Britain sees good food.

The other huge, but underrated, influence is a man. The buffoonish, not always likeable, Keith Floyd, who dragged TV chefs out of the Fanny Craddock era and introduced Britain to a whole bunch of cuisines. With the notable exception of Madhur Jaffrey, nobody had really exposed Britain to exotic cuisines until that point.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:52 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

The Australian Madhur Jaffrey, if not Julia Child: Charmaine Solomon.
posted by rory at 3:33 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Madhur Jaffrey's books were crucial in us being able to adjust to living in an area horribly lacking in great Indian restaurants, after many years living in London. I've never cocked up one of her recipes yet.
posted by skybluepink at 3:43 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just want to chime in and nth that this is a brilliant post!
posted by nevercalm at 4:14 AM on October 15, 2013

I was going to excoriate you for not including Dan Ackroyd's "I've cut the dickens out of my finger" but then I saw you snuck it in there. This post was cooked to perfection.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:00 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

As I've been forcing both my and Marcella Hazan's bolognese on pretty much anyone who walks near me this past week in the interest of oh-my-god- I thought my bolognese was the best until I tried this, now tell me, whose do you think is better....I've been describing her as the Julia Child of Italian cooking when they say "who?". I should have known I wasn't the first genius to think of her this way.

I also can't believe that I associate with so many philistines who are clueless to the existence of Marcella Hazan.
posted by newpotato at 5:19 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

A somewhat related AskMe: International Standard Cookbooks.
posted by zamboni at 5:19 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Fuchsia Dunlop may be the Julia Childs of Chinese food (for non-Chinese speakers/readers).
posted by askmehow at 5:48 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Hmm, there have been other Vietnamese cookbooks of note. Trang's is interesting because it is a fusion of her particular upbringing, Chinese-Vietnamese and southern Vietnman. If you are going to look for the first serious popularization of Vietnamese cuisine in English than Nicole Routhier and a fine, early book is The Cuisine of Vietnam by Ngo and Zimmerman.

But if you are going to state who is popularizing Vietnamese cuisine the most consistently and with gusto then Andrea Nguyen whose book, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, is excellent.

To be honest, I like Trang's book a great deal, but I would not have elevated her to Julia Child status because indeed, that is a heavy status.
posted by jadepearl at 5:55 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

God, what a beautiful post. And we love Madhur Jaffrey--in addition to her Invitation to Indian Cooking (which among other things finally taught me how to make perfect rice), her World of the East vegetarian cookbook is great for people who are a little nervous about making dishes from Asia and the middle east. (next on my list: savory custards!)

I will be reading these links for days and days. Thank you!
posted by mittens at 6:14 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

So much good food! So many Julia Children!
posted by Mister_A at 6:27 AM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]

My funny Julia Child story: Years ago my father was attending a meeting and induction ceremony of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, or which he is a member. One of that year's inductees was Julia Child. This was apparently unknown to the caterer, who I imagine doesn't normally care what kind of nerd the Academy is inducting that year and who was, as one would expect, in an absolute swivet to learn that Julia Child would be eating his food. My father is seated rather near Julia and observes as the caterer finally screws up his courage to ask her what she thought. I imagine she can't have been paying much attention and may not have known he was the actual caterer, because she asked: "Yes, what is this meat?"
posted by slkinsey at 6:56 AM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

I would also add Robert Dahni's Southeast Asian Flavors to the list if you're interested in the region. While it doesn't dive ultra deep into any one cuisine -- certainly never Hazan's "Essentials of Italian Cooking" -- it deals with Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia with respect and a depth of understanding that I've not see anywhere else.
posted by petrilli at 6:57 AM on October 15, 2013

I was hoping this post would take the analogy beyond cooking: e.g., Michael Coleman was the Julia Child of Sligo fiddling.
posted by mr vino at 8:21 AM on October 15, 2013

This is such a great post. So many new cookbooks to track down.

I would add Paula Wolfert as the Julia Child of Mediterranean cuisine.
posted by Knicke at 9:06 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's fiiiinaaally starting to cool off enough in AZ to fire up the stove and the oven. And then this inspiring post comes along. Perfect!

(Also, does anyone have a source for cheap used cookbooks? On Amazon even the used ones are like $40!)
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:23 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Excellent post! Seconding the addition of Paula Wolfert.
posted by trip and a half at 11:53 AM on October 15, 2013

I've often heard Harumi Kurihara described as "the Martha Stewart of Japan," but she actually seems more like a Julia Child. I've got one of her Japanese cookbooks and it's quite lovely.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:06 PM on October 15, 2013

I was going to mention Harumi Kurihara. She has a pretty significant following in Japan, and I was given a book of hers. Very simple, very easy to grasp.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:08 PM on October 15, 2013

Here's another source for that Dan Aykroyd as Julia Child video, as it was apparently pulled by Hulu on the linked page above. Warning: fake, hilarious medical emergency.

Save the liver!
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:02 PM on October 16, 2013

Source for cheap cookbooks: the library.
posted by aniola at 9:26 AM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

« Older Don't not make everything not private!   |   Sounds of the wanderers Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments