Posted by: njbrown | August 26, 2009

Julia and the suckling pig, the monkfish, etc.


August 26, 2009

One of the most humorous and impressive French Chef episodes I remember was the one where Julia was preparing what I think was a suckling pig. (The horror of dealing with a very young pig had not yet occurred to me.) However, when Julia took out what I remember to be a toothbrush and instructed her viewers to brush the pig’s teeth, it was truly memorable – and hilarious. I was never motivated to try this recipe!

As I was doing the salmon souffle last week, I began to remember the physical strength it takes to do things Julia’s way. In skimming later cookbooks, I see that she does make it acceptable to use labor-saving machines, but early in my efforts, doing it by hand was a test of dedication to fine cuisine. Weighing less than a hundred pounds in those days, it took a while to gain the strength and stamina to beat egg whites by hand. When I did, I felt quite proud of myself, and my husband was duly impressed. To this day he will tell people that I used to beat egg whites by hand.

One of the Julia cookbooks I found shows her holding up an enormous monkfish. I can’t even begin to guess the weight – perhaps fifty pounds – perhaps more? Her height and strength were invaluable for this kind of cooking!

Fish and shellfish have always been among my favorite foods. One of my first food memories (from when I was about three and we were briefly living in the Boston area) was of trying steamed clams. At about the age of four, living in the Seattle area, I remember a friend bringing beautiful, fresh-caught wild salmon to my parents. I can still taste the unique flavor of that wonderful fish. Later, when my family was living on a Marine base in North Carolina, we traveled to one of the few restaurants in the area – the Sanitary Fish Restaurant – for fish, and there I tasted hush puppies for the first time. I remember the hush puppies being even better than the fish, and still love them, although in Canada they are not available. I remember having paella in Spain on the Christmas trip with Leine, and a few years later having a seafood dish that included baby octopus in Italy. Normally, I wouldn’t go near octopus, but I was very hungry, and these were very tiny. I can understand why Julia looked forward to living in Marseille.

Nancy

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