I learned to cook the way most people do - by helping my mother in the kitchen and then by doing myself in the kitchen of my first apartment. My mother taught me to bake homemade yeast bread and biscuits. She enjoyed baking most of all, and passed a love of baking on to me.
Most of what else she taught me in the kitchen involved a can opener or a box. She enjoyed grocery store convenience products. When I got married, I received several cookbooks as wedding gifts. I pored over them and tried out recipes, wanting to learn to make more things homemade. At times over the years, I've had urges to take cooking classes, sensing certain gaps in my cooking knowledge. It always sounds fun to take a cooking class, doesn't it? I've never taken a cooking class, though.
A while back, my teenage daughter turned me on to the movie "Julie and Julia." I became enamored with Julia Child - and promptly went off on one of my classic tangents where I get hooked on a topic and have to read everything I can get my hands on about it.
The movie is about a writer who wrote a blog about her year of trying to make every recipe in Child's first cookbook, so luckily that's already been done, relieving me of including such madness in my own temporary obsession.
I did, however, track down a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One." This was Julia Child's first cookbook, and widely recognized as a masterpiece. She wrote it with two friends, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, with whom she started a cooking school in her Paris kitchen after graduating from the Cordon Bleu. Alongside her cookbook, of course I had to also read her memoir, "My Life in France," which is surprisingly fascinating.
I don't believe my mother had a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" - at least I never saw it if she did. But she watched Child's PBS show, "The French Chef," because I remember it being on the television when I was a kid.
I remember thinking she was a very strange woman -- so tall! And that rich, warbly voice! She exuded a passion for cooking that defied you not to look when she was on the screen.
Even as a child, she caught my attention. But the "French" part can be a little off-putting, and since I had no further exposure to Julia Child, I assumed her cooking was all high falutin', which I've never been too interested in.
I associated Julia Child with boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin - and I didn't even know what those were, but they sounded too fancy and too difficult. The movie made me interested in her as a person, which then led me around to her memoir and first cookbook - and a surprise.