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When I was a child, there was a period of time when we lived in the country and only got a couple TV channels. The local broadcast (Channel 50 for any Sonoma County alumns) and PBS. So my choices after school  were reruns of Hogan’s Heros, I Dream of Genie or whatever fundraising drive was on PBS. Clearly I Dream of Genie was the best choice in that line up.  I remember one day flicking past PBS and hearing a deep and joyful laugh that caught my attention. It was a woman, smiling and laughing at a stove. It was Julia Child and I loved her immediately.

I was 12 and was already an accomplished eater (no picky-kid-food-only in our house) and a curious and ambitious cook (regularly made dinner for our family). For me, the kitchen was a place where curiosity took form in delicious food. And I was one curious child so the kitchen was my happy place. So when I saw Julia Child, man-handling a chicken, comfortable, in charge and having fun, it reinforced what was already beginning to know: that if you allow cooking to be carefree and you know how to get the most out a few simple ingredients, you will make delicious food. And when you serve your family (or anyone, really), delicious food, you are passing on a bit of your joy to them and for this, your table will never be empty.

Once I discovered Julia, I was hooked. I tuned in regularly. I learned how to make a perfect omelette (plenty of butter, not too much egg in the pan, and SHAKE….20 seconds is all you need), a humble and sublime roast chicken (trussing is key) the trick to delicious roasted potatoes (fat, of course!). I look back now and realize that I was becoming the chef I am today in those moments. Julia says a great chef is made by “training and techniques….a great love of food…and a generous personality.” I don’t know if I’m a “great chef” but I do know that I was born with a deep love food and that a childhood filled of taking care of others has made me a generous spirit. But as for the culinary training and techniques? I began my education sitting on the carpet in front of a black and white TV looking up to one of the best culinary teachers of our time….am I am a better chef and educator for it.

Here’s a fun, modern spin on so many of the things I love about Julia Child. You’ll be singing “Cook and cook and keep on cooking…this is the way to live!” by the end of the video. Happy Birthday, Julia!

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