Save the Liver! Happy Birthday, Julia Child!

Bon jour, my darlings! Suze here.

Yesterday was a special day. Julia Child would have turned 100 years old on August 15, 2012.

I said, “Dance!”

I grew up watching reruns of Julia on WGBY. Our small town in the boondocks didn’t have a lot of stations until later in my illustrious television-viewing career, so public television it was. Even as a kid, I understood on some level the magic that Julia had. In my real-life experience, women cooked to put food on the table and keep the kids and menfolk satisfied. It was a chore (granted, my grandmother on the dairy farm had ten children, and my mother was the oldest daughter–so they were cooking for and cleaning up after a small army three times a day). They did not enjoy it.

Then along came Julia, a six-foot-two preppie wearing an industrial-looking dress and pearls, wielding a giant cleaver, gleefully making a dead chicken dance on the small screen. Her joy came through, just short of palpable, for more than 30 years.

She inspired me to learn to cook something beyond the basics my mother produced for our family of seven. (One of Mom’s specialties was “Spanish Rice,” which consisted of hamburger browned with onion, cooked Minute Rice, and a jar of spaghetti sauce. Not sure where the “Spanish” part came into play)

In my adulthood, as I understood more of Julia’s story, my admiration for her grew. A child of privilege, she worked in Europe for the OSS, met and married Paul Child, the love of her life, and trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris as a chef when women simply did not do such things. If you haven’t seen the movie Julie and Julia, do it now! The Julie storyline is completely forgettable (sorry, Amy Adams!), but Meryl Streep’s performance as Julia Child is nothing short of mind-boggling.

Here’s a link to the Smithsonian’s virtual exhibit on Julia Child. You can hear that famous warbly voice, see her kitchen recreated, and even look at some of the individual tools and gadgets she used.

And click here to watch one of the funniest parodies of all time: Dan Aykroyd playing The French Chef. Julia Child was said to have loved this so much that she kept a VHS tape of it. Note: you may want to watch this after breakfast!

So, in honor of her birthday, how about a small gift for all of you loyal readers? Here is my Secret French Toast recipe. No liver required. Bon appetit!

Suze’s French Toast

6 slices white bread (potato bread is delicious, if you can find it)

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk or half and half

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla (orange or almond extract is also delicious)

1 tsp. cinnamon

In a shallow bowl or pie plate, mix up the eggs, milk/half and half, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. No need to drag out the mixer–a fork or whisk works fine. Dip the bread into the egg mixture, coating both sides. Don’t leave it to soak too long, or the bread will fall apart when you try to take it out.

Preheat an electric griddle or a skillet on the stove. Medium heat is best. Plop on a generous glob of butter. You want it sizzly, but not burning.

Take the bread slices out of the egg mixture, let them drain a bit, and place them on the griddle or skillet. Cook until golden brown and fragrant on one side (usually takes a couple of minutes), then flip and cook for another minute or two on the other side.

Serve with lots more butter, real maple syrup, and some berries or sliced bananas.

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16 thoughts on “Save the Liver! Happy Birthday, Julia Child!”

  1. I found Amy Adams very annoying and whiny in that movie and kept thinking get back to Meryl and Spanish Rice? Really? LOL.

    1. I know! I wish the movie makers had just left out the whole Julie storyline, which did nothing for the movie, and just had the whole thing be about Julia Child. And FYI, sometimes Mom would chop up a green pepper and cook it along with the onions and hamburger, so it was extra-Spanish then! We liked it, by the way. But we had it A LOT.

  2. Suze, you grew up with so many siblings, I bet you lost count. What’s the holidays like in your family? Do you rent out a hotel or something like that? How many nieces and nephews do you have? And how many kids do you have? My o’ my. Fun, fun, fun personified. I know your recipe is good, except I use thick sliced Challah bread or sometime cinnamon and raisin thick bread. Yum. And I don’t even like French toast. By the way, do you know why is it French? Thanks for the post and the recipe.

    1. I have 1 brother and 3 sisters. I have 3 nephews and 4 nieces, and I have 1 son myself. It’s pretty crowded when we all get together at the holidays! But my mom, who grew up on a farm, had 6 brothers and 3 sisters. I have a squillion first cousins, almost all of whom have kids of their own by now. It is a very large gene pool, LOL! And I don’t know what makes French toast French — maybe the holy trinity of eggs, cream and butter? Challah or raisin bread also sounds delicious :)

  3. I, too, grew up watching Julia. The difference was that my mother (who would have given her eye teeth to go to Cordon Bleu) watched too, and took notes, then recreated many of the recipes. The neighborhood kids tended to be hanging around my house sixish, hoping to be invited to join us for dinner. I never knew about minute rice, kraft macaroni and cheese or shake and bake until I went to college and found out that’s what many of my peers considered home cooking! I didn’t really learn to cook from my mother — her kitchen was her empire — but I learned to eat well from those meals. So I had to learn to cook in self defense, all of which is Julia’s fault!

  4. Hi Suze. I LOVE Meryl as Julia. I do not remember watching her on TV, but have seen replays of it. She was quite a character. I love to cook, and at one point in my life dreamed of going to school to become a chef. Needless to say, that never came about. I shall have to make a delicious dish in celebration of Julia’s birthday. I shall life a glass of wine and say, Happy Birthday Julia.

    1. It would be so cool to be a professional chef, but they have to work such wonky hours in a hot, sweaty kitchen with a lot of correspondingly hot, sweaty people. Now, if Curtis Stone were my private instructor, I might change my mind!

  5. My daughters and I made her Beef Bourgione recipe after we watched the movie. It was really delish, but the procedure dragged out for hours and hours, with lots of tending. Afterwards, I altered my pot roast recipe by browning everything in bacon and reducing the oven temp for slower cooking. No tending once the roast was in the oven–but my carrots came out mushier than hers.

    1. I’ve never tried that recipe, but I’m inspired to do it once the weather gets cooler. And if I have a lot of time, LOL! Do you think there’s a taste (or other) difference if you brown your pot roast on the stove, then transfer to a slow cooker? I love the slow cooker.

  6. I remember my mom watching Julia on public television. Last year the Cooking Channel re-ran the old show and man, that brough back memories! But I have to say, I love that sketch with Dan Akroyd from SNL! In my mind, they’ve kind of morphed together!

    1. I never get tired of watching that skit, Casey! It never, ever fails to crack me up. Remind me to tell you the Bass-o-matic story sometime. On second thought, maybe I can work that into one of my novels :)

  7. That’s how I make mine, Suze! Only I use whole wheat or multigrain these days. Stop and Shop has a really hearty bread in their bakery section that works great.. Thanks for sharing Julia with us and doing her such justice.

    1. I actually like a hearty bread too. It comes out less sweet that way, but my kid is hooked on the potato variety. A savory French Toast variation we love for dinner is a Monte Cristo — leave out the cinnamon and vanilla, only soak one side of the bread, and layer cheese, ham, and another slice of cheese in between the slices, then cook like a grilled cheese. We like that with a green salad and maple syrup and/or honey mustard for dipping.

  8. I make Paula Dean’s French Toast Caserole for Christmas – lot’s of butter, eggs, cream and bagette – yummy! My hubby actually jumped up and down in excitement last year as I was prepping it. Prep on X-mas eve, cook on xmas day…gotta soak in that cream overnight.

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