Today marks what would be the 100th birthday of Julia Child. The hilarious “French Chef” mesmerized generations of viewers, including moi, who grew up watching either her or the Muppets, while my mother laughed equally hard at both. Over the years I grew to collect her cookbooks and adore her recipes, be it the Reine de Saba chocolate cake crowd-pleaser, the legendary Boeuf Bourgignon, or the full-day-of-baking baguette. Something about Julia just seemed like family—I even named one of my daughters after the gal who had more personality than you could possibly bottle. And trust me, I wish I’d thought to write “Jenny & Julia.”
After moving from Cambridge, Massachusetts (where we lived within a mile of her famous old house) to Minneapolis, I looked no further than Julia for inspiration to fix up our kitchen. We were starting with a great layout in a roomy space and it was senseless to rip out the cabinets and granite and start over. But to freshen up the terribly generic brown cabinetry, I took a cue from Paul and Julia Child’s custom blue-green blend and recreated it at home. After a major search to hit just the right tone, I chose Martha Stewart’s Tidewater at Home Depot, and had it done by Minneapolis painter Scott Russell. Fortunately it was a success and another reminder how far paint (and a quick lighting change) can go.
Now the kitchen has become what it should be, the heart of the home. To celebrate the new room, we had a few close friends over for a Julia Child dinner and in true spirit, we ate our five courses with plenty of wine and laughs. For me, Julia’s legend is half cooking and half humor. She was engaging and entertaining and totally passionate about what she was doing, be it hacking up a chicken or flipping an omelet, only to watch it fall apart on the floor—then giving a healthy pause to remind us all, on camera, that it is A-OK to completely mess up. If you need a reminder, just watch the old SNL sketch. So in honor of her, go cook up some good Coq au Vin in your kitchen and bon appétit! Now, onto that pegboard!