It was a big day for me when I learned that curry leaves are available in South Orange. I e-mailed some friends, the ones who, like me, make it through a tough day with thoughts of cheese from . Mary replied, “Who ever thought we’d see the day? Curry leaves in town!" and listed her most recent local food finds. For such friends and for me, today, which would have been Julia Child's one hundreth birthday, is a celebration.
Modern “foodies” owe it all to the late, great Julia Child, whose television presence and hefty volumes taught us how and what to cook when inspiration struck. Her memoir, My Life in France, has been on my iPod this summer, all six hours of it, and I listen while I walk through town. When the story concludes, I start over again, with Julia Child’s arrival in France. As Julia used to say of butter, there’s no such thing as too much.
Last week, I listened with special care as I shopped at Eden Gourmet, because I was cooking for a Friday festivity.
The meal included Roast Chicken with Lemon and Herbs, a cheese soufflé, a gratin of eggplant and zucchini and three desserts. One was shortbread, another was crème brulee in chocolate cups, and the grand finale was a cake sometimes described as Child’s favorite, the Queen of Sheba cake.
As a point of interest, I used 16 sticks of butter in the preparation of this meal. I made four separate trips back to Eden Gourmet for forgotten items—including a walk home with two restless boys taking turns carrying some 12 pounds of chicken—and I dedicated a full day, scheduled carefully in 30-minute segments, to the project.
There are predictable highs and lows to cooking big meals. A high is melting chocolate and butter together, creating a scent that no perfumer on earth can match. A low is the sink full of dirty bowls. When the lows led to panic, when the chicken would not roast and the floor was slippery with oil and zucchini peels, I called Mary.
She talked me down, reminding me that the beauty of cooking is that, sooner or later, a chicken made hot will turn into a roast chicken. “Besides,” she said, “it’s just local friends, right? It’s not as if Julia Child is coming to South Orange.” By then, the cake had baked, and the chicken was sizzling nicely in the oven.
Sadly, there's no record of Julia Child coming to town, though her husband was born in Montclair. I’d like to think she passed through South Orange some time, and I wish that I could have invited her for dinner before the movie. If she could have come, not only would I have served her cake, I’d even have told her where to find the curry leaves.