On June 22, 2002, I interviewed Julia Child about her apron memory. How I came to be seated at a cloth covered patio table across from America's most beloved cook is a whole other blog (tags: serendipity, friendship, largess).
I came bearing two gifts: an apron I'd sewn especially for Ms. Child and a bottle of expensive champagne. Ms. Child unwrapped the apron -- at least 10 sizes too small and ruffly-edged -- held it up and in her distinctive voice said, "Oh, Dearie, dainty doesn't do in the kitchen." Then she sweetly handed it back to me. I quickly handed her hostess gift #2, along with a jumbled sort of pre-happy-ninetieth-birthday wish. Sliding the bottle out of its bag, she rewarded this present with a nod and murmured notation that this was one gift she would not be returning. Thank God I'd brought a backup to the apron.
For the next hour, I sat with Ms. Child as she ate a simple lunch of an unadorned hamburger patty and a pint carton of milk, and we chatted about my apron journey and her apron memory.
Ms. Child told me that she hadn't much experience in the kitchen nor had she ever worn an apron, until she met her husband. Newly married in 1949, they moved to France, where she tasted French food and knew right then she wanted to learn about French cooking. Following the tradition of the Cordon Bleu cooking school, she began wearing the chef-type blue denim apron with a towel draped over the waist ties. "When Paul and I cooked together, he wore the same type apron, only folding the bib at the waist and hanging a towel from the apron pocket."
As soon as she began talking about her husband, sadness misted her face, and no longer was I sitting across from an icon; rather, I was in the presence of a woman who'd lost the love of her life.
"Paul and I always had breakfast and most of our meals with one another. After his retirement, we often ate at home in our kitchen. Upon his death in 1994, Paul and I had eaten together for almost 50 years." Fifty years.
Sitting across the table from Ms. Child, I watched as she tidied the cutlery on the plate. One day, I thought, I could be you...alone at a table, with memories of my prince charming as a luncheon companion.
Right then, I resolved to be grateful my husband comes home every day for lunch, to make his sandwich with love, to sit down at the table as he eats, and to abide Sports Center in the background as he recounts his morning at work. For one day, I may know of Julia Child's loss and heartache.
The digital recording of that interview has been in a fireproof box for the past seven years, so fearful have I been of taping over it. There's over 60 minutes of conversation, revelation, poignant recollection,
homey, personal advice and her words of wisdom, which I've integrated into my life...all fodder for a whole slew of blogs (tags: foreign, food, language, writing, cookbooks, celebrity, chef, teacher, hostess, wife, wisdom). Julia Child was a teacher of more than cooking.