Before Anthony Bourdain championed ugly foods and David Chang shone a spotlight on delicious dishes that would most likely never make the cover of a gourmet magazine, Julia Child encouraged audiences to embrace accidents in the kitchen. Her light-hearted approach offered permission to chefs everywhere to take an easier approach to mastering skills in the kitchen, and her willingness to admit to mistakes and demonstrate that home cooks needn't strive for perfection may have been one of her more important contributions to the culinary world.
Whether burning food on her television show or admitting to David Letterman that her accidents were often fed to her husband, Child's unabashed and sincere attempts to replicate recipes were not only endearing but encouraging. "Have you ever cooked something, Julia, that just turned out awful?" Letterman asked the cook. "Yeah, lots of times," she admitted. "I give it to my husband," she quipped to Letterman's laughing audience.
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Summoning Courage While Cooking
Even on Letterman's show, after dealing with a malfunctioning stovetop, Child creatively turned her failed attempts to make a hamburger into a beef tartare meal by using a blowtorch. On her own television program, Child spoke to American's fear of failure, encouraging at-home chefs who might be reluctant to approach specific dishes due to particular ingredients like sugar syrup or caramel to welcome feelings of impending disaster. "If you're gonna have a sense of fear of failure you're just never going to learn how to cook," she explained. "Cooking is, well, lots of it, it's one failure after another, and that's how you finally learn."
Child wasn't afraid to demonstrate this exact approach, casually remarking, "Oh, well, that didn't go very well," when struggling to neatly flip ingredients or causing a mess in the kitchen. Even on television, Child continued cooking while looking for ways to course-correct and make a meal that could be confidently served and eaten, offering a helpful example for the rest of us attempting to put a decent dinner on the table.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.