Archive for Julia Child

High Definitions & Low Expectations

Posted in High Definitions & Low Expectations with tags , , , on September 15, 2009 by davegerry

High Definition / Low Expectation

This will be a new regular segment called High Definitions & Low Expectations which pretty much mirrors my feelings on the current state of television. I have never earned a penny being a tv critic but I have put more than my fair share of crap up on the screen. I figure that makes me more than qualified to lock and load.

I’ve been so busy with starting this blog that I’ve barely had a moment to reach for the remote but it was with a real sense of discovery and gastronomic glee that I accidentally stumbled upon some vintage Julia Child programming this week on Seattle’s PBS station KCTS.

The late icon of the television kitchen is back on the front burner due to the popularity of Nora Ephron’s new film Julie & Julia starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

I have yet to see the movie but I sat there watching those old tv shows (produced in black and white, mind you) with the goofiest grin on my face.

Part of this reaction comes from the fact that Julia Child will forever be linked with that riotous Saturday Night Live sendup. The image of Dan Aykroyd as the French Chef, complete with fright wig and apron, accidentally dicing a digit and hemorrhaging his way through to the final ‘Bon Appetit’  has been seared into the collective memory like a grill mark on a good steak.

I understand Julia got a real kick out of the sketch at the time.

So I sat there watching her wrestle with a bunch of chicken carcasses and flip a few dozen omelettes and it transported me back to the earliest days of broadcast cookery.

Julia set the bar but my father and I were particular fans of Graham Kerr’s original 1968 series The Galloping Gourmet which was produced by the CBC out of Ottawa. We never missed a single show.

Not long ago I was prowling about in a used book store on Whidbey Island in Washington State and I found four of the original Galloping Gourmet editions. I had them at the checkout in a heartbeat.

We now have entire networks devoted to food but Julia and Graham and Jacques Pepin (to my mind the best food technician ever)  were hitting their stride well before the world went stylistically organic. There was still lots of butter and (God forbid) lard on the list of ingredients. Goat cheese had yet to insinuate itself into every item on the menu. I miss those days.

I have pared down the number of cooking shows I watch because there are just too many hotdogs on the screen and I don’t mean the kind you find nestled in a bun.

When chefs became the new tv celebrities a lot of  technique was sacrificed for style.

It took me ages to sit through an entire Iron Chef show. I found all of the frantic camera action, Wagnerian crescendos and screaming hosts to be a bit much. As someone who loves to cook I’m interested in digesting more method and less madness.

How do you feel about Gordon Ramsay? I’m a bit split on the foul-mouthed Brit. I still enjoy Kitchen Nightmares but have tuned out of his biggest show Hell’s Kitchen. It’s simply too manipulative and like most so-called reality programming I find it completely formulaic. By the way, who would have thought thirty years ago that you’d be rushing young children away from the television because a cooking show was about to start?

I did enjoy eyeballing the pneumatic Nigella Lawson, but only while dressed in loose fitting clothing when my wife wasn’t around.

Jamie Oliver, I think, comes across as a genuine guy and Anthony Bourdain has a distinctively cynical,  literary edge.

But that’s about it. Isn’t it curious that with such a vast visual selection I found myself, once again, mesmerized by the black and white image of that six foot, two inch, glad-hearted leviathon with the loopy booming voice?

Julia Child died five years ago at the well fed age of 91. When asked the secret to her longevity she didn’t miss a beat, “Red meat and gin”.

Chew on that for a while.

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