Today is a special day. It marks a couple of momentous events in our collective history as citizens of this planet. Both of them are relevant to me, and maybe more than one will be relevant to you.

First, today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Julia Child. Here’s where I could say that she left an indelible mark on my culinary engagement from the time I was a young person, seeing her on Public Television every day when I ran home from school to catch reruns of her program. I’m not going to say that, because it simply isn’t true.

What she did, though, is open up the pathway for acceptance of French cooking techniques into today’s modern kitchen, and bridged the gap from the ’50s model of Campbell’s soup and green bean casserole/church basement cookbooks to recipes that instill pride in both kitchen skills and quality of life. Her recipes and effervescent personality in the kitchen gave life to the housewives stuck at home, injected life into the grocery industry, and opened doors of the curious nature of the home cook who wanted nothing more than to perfect a dish that was outside the realm of what was considered a normal dinner.

Cookbooks, television shows, and countless dinner parties later, her influence can be seen in restaurants as well. Escoffier envisioned the brigade system in restaurants over 100 years ago, but it was the dishes of Julia Child that brought French culinary technique once again to the masses.

She did it with such zest. Her television appearances outside of the French Chef kitchen found her paired with David Letterman, whom she traded barbs with, playfully chiding him for his lack of an adventurous palate when a hamburger was transformed to a tartare au gratin thanks to a faulty heating element. Later in life, she shared a Public Television kitchen with Jacques Pepin, a similarly regarded French chef, and countless glasses of wine. The Julia Child I became engaged and enamored with was one enjoying her later years with glee, keeping a watchful eye over food while sipping on a cabernet. The aspect of a meal prepared for health rather than flavor was not frowned upon, but seen as a noisome bother. The reality of cooking in Julia Child’s kitchen was to use fresh ingredients, and blend flavors, aromas, and fill your kitchen and home with love.

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The second event is equally as personal to me. My best friend Andy and his wife (also named Julia), this morning, welcomed their son to the world. There has been nothing more exciting for them in their young marriage than to anticipate the welcome of a child into all of our lives. It has been such a pleasure to see how they’ve grown as a couple from the first time I met her as his special lady, to their engagement, and by standing up at their wedding and promising to foster their relationship and marriage with support and care.

As a gift for their baby shower, I got them a pasta maker. I realize that everyone needs diapers. Everyone needs a stroller. The huge amount of love and support from their respective families, from the look of their registry, looked to have provided most of that for them. I started to think about my relationship with Andy and how food has played a huge part. We’ve known each other since middle school, and cooked with each other for just as long. We had a project in 7th grade geography where we made sushi together, and in high school, we made an instructional video for his French class on how to make crepes.

When I went through culinary school, we lived together. I’d bring home steaks, skate wing, potatoes. Every day, a giant takeout container would come back from my kitchen to our house. We’d experiment together on flavors, pore over recipes and techniques from my cookbooks, and watch cooking shows together. He’d ask questions, I’d try to answer them using what I’d learned at school, and our relationship with food and with each other was strengthened through the medium of cooking.

When we get together now, we always cook. It made sense to me to give the pasta maker as a gift. To use it properly, it takes patience, time, and multiple sets of hands. The finished product is one that you share with your family. Through the process of making pasta, and cooking together, you bring those with whom you work and teach closer together.

The way I phrased it when I picked it out, “Kid’s gotta eat”, may have been a little brusque, but it’s true. I hope that the best gifts I know how to give are ones that can be shared with family. I see that Andy’s great loves are family and cooking. I envision a kitchen filled with giggles, tiny, floured handprints on every surface. And I smile.

Congratulations, Andy and Julia. Happy Birthday, Henry.

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