I'm a recent convert to Julia Child and I am convinced--after only a few DVDs--that she is the best thing that ever happened to food in America. Why? Because she brought her spirit, her energy, her intelligence into American homes and tried to elevate us. She tried to show us that for a dinner to be successful, it needn't be expensive, it needn't be pretentious. It need only capture the chef's enthusiasm, the chef's love.
Americans don't know how to engage with their food anymore. We see boxes in cases and take them home and put them in another box and ZAP dinner is ready. We pick up the phone and punch in numbers and a brown bag arrives. We deal with food in the 21st century the way we deal with people--faceless messages on a computer screen--and with further advances in technology, we retreat further and further into ourselves. For most Americans in the 21st century, a successful dinner is a dinner that requires the least amount of engagement with the outside world. We don't want to know our grocers, our butchers, our bakers. We don't even want to know our delivery boys. We want our privacy, thank you, and that means a lonely dinner in front of the TV is preferred to a party with friends who we'd have to shop for, cook for, and clean up after. We have our Tivos, computers, iPods, and DVD players to keep us company.
America: learn from Julia. Wake up. Engage. Care.
That's the formula for success. We've lowered our standards because we're afraid of failure. Julia's not afraid because she knows it doesn't matter if her Pommes Anna collapses--what matters is that she took the time to make a Pommes Anna. So should you.
The Amateur Gourmet gets serious for a minute . . .
The AG posted an American Food Manifesto, an excellent, thoughtful piece bringing together ideas of how what is wrong with American culture (focus on winning, focus on competition) has influenced American food culture in negative ways. And my favorite part, in which AG makes an interesting point about our extreme desire for anonymity and privacy (all the while becoming less anonymous and less private in online forums, a very very different sort of community that has a lot less responsibility built in) while paying proper homage to Julia: