What Julia Child and Graham Kerr taught me about life...
There are two perhaps, some may say, unlikely characters that have taught me some very valuable lessons about life. They are none other than the amazing and talented Julia Child and Graham Kerr. Both were television chefs delighting audiences during the 1960's all the way through to the 1990's. Both are fascinating entertainers. I fell in love with their cooking shows, namely Julia's programs; The French Chef and Julia Child and Company and Graham's show; The Galloping Gourmet.
These programs are far more than just cooking tutorials to me; they are lessons from the school of life deceptively packaged as how-to's for boeuf bourguignon and cheese souffle's. I credit Julia Child and Graham Kerr both for reminding me that life and happiness can, and should, go hand in hand and that pure joy is underrated.
As far as teachers go, they are two of the very best....
Life Is Messy...
Every time I have watched a pre recorded Julia Child create some French masterpiece or a grinning Graham Kerr make some very odd stuff seem edible, I’ve also watched them make a mess. A cloud of flour that dusted the counter, a splash of sauce that had slipped from a spoon, whatever it happened to be, neither Graham nor Julia’s kitchen was a clean one… well at least not while they were cooking.
In a way, life is kind of like one big kitchen; stuff bubbling up all around, things being formed, built up from what we have found and put together. We make spills, drop something here and there, leave a muddy footprint behind…
And more often than not, our ‘kitchens’, while full of life and activity, are messy.
With all that we have going on in our lives, how could they not have a little dirt? And besides, if they were pristine, how would anyone know that we had even been there? When the counters are spotless and the stove holds no pots or pans, when the sink has never seen a dirty dish and the floor always shines, well then we haven’t really left our mark on the place, now have we?
Julia and Graham knew that a kitchen without a spot is a pipe dream. They understood that it was worth ignoring the little spills while cooking to make it to the end product because it was that end product, that finish line, that really counted. Because who really cares if you dripped chocolate on the floor if your cake is a mouth watering masterpiece!
I don’t expect my life to be without pitfalls or messes that need cleaning up. But I do know that, in the end, its not going to be the drips on the counter that people remember, it will be the cake.
I don't think that was the plan...
Improving with Letterman
Don't cry over spilt hollandaise...
We make mistakes. All the time. And we run into obstacles. All the time. Big or small, it’s not important. What does matter, though, is how we deal with those mistakes and road blocks. When we dwell on what has gone wrong, nothing gets fixed. So when life gives you lemons...do what Graham and Julia would do and make a lemon mascarpone layer cake!
Rarely did any recipe or taping go exactly as planned when Graham Kerr was in front of the camera. A dessert that didn’t cut neatly, a dish he forgot to put in the oven, an oven that didn’t get turned on…there always seemed to be something. But the one thing I always noticed was that no matter what happened, he never stopped smiling and joking about it. He knew there was no point in dwelling on the little missteps. I think he also realized what I’m sure many television chefs of today seem to forget- those at home cooks that are watching and planning on recreating whatever they see aren’t professionals and they almost certainly will make some mistakes. I happen to find it comforting when the pros hit a snag here or there. It reminds me that we are all human and all inclined to an error or two.
Teaching the World to Cook...
The Chicken Show
Find happiness in the simple things and HAVE FUN!
If there was one constant that played out on both chef’s programs, it was that they enjoyed themselves. Graham always began The Galloping Gourmet with a joke. Often, a slightly dirty one that got the crowd ready for a show that was a little out there for its time. And it was clear the Julia loved what she was doing. They had fun with it, they played around with the food, with the audience. They were always laughing, always smiling and I found myself laughing and smiling right along with them.
Watching these two was real entertainment. You didn't watch just to learn how to cook a dish, you watched because you couldn't look away. There was something within them, a joy they had, that everyone watching them envied.
I think there comes a time when we all find ourselves taking life a little too seriously. We let the bad stuff get us down and we start overlooking all the little things that used to make us happy. As a child, happiness was an ice cream cone on a summer day...playing with a puppy...building a snowman in the yard...
Somewhere along the line, we seem to forget about those things, we grow up and think we must be serious adults. Who has time to play when we must work? That was one of the beautiful things I learned from Graham and Julia...make time to play and if you are lucky enough to play while you work, then smile and enjoy it!!
Some classic examples of Graham having fun in the kitchen.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery...
Nobody likes to be copied. Whether it's our work, our style or even an idea we had, having something we created recreated by someone else without our permission is well...annoying. It can cause us aggravation, frustration and irritation.
But, perhaps we can still find a little solace in that old saying, "Imitation is the highest form of flattery." If someone copied something we did; be it a term paper, a look we put together or the type of car we drive; it has to mean they admire something about us, right?
Julia has had and will likely continue to have more than her fair share of imitators. I mean, who hasn't stood in their kitchen while making a meal and uttered something to a pretend camera in their best Julia voice?
So, what do we do when we find ourselves in such a predicament? We can take pride in knowing that we did whatever it was first and in the fact that we were able to inspire others to follow in our footsteps and we can try to not let it bother us. Well...maybe.
Julia and Meryl
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And so, I leave you with this...a reminder of those lessons Graham and Julia taught right along with all the cooking-- Do what you love and have fun doing it, smile and the world will smile with you, don't sweat the small stuff and remember, laughter (and good food!) really is the best medicine!!
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