In the kitchen with Joy & Julia
Getting into cooking, with help from a few culinary legends
Some studies say teens aren’t cooking as much as their parents did. Some — like a recent Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior study — say teens who do cook eat healthier and maintain healthier lifestyles.
I enjoy cooking because it’s a great pastime and gives reason for family and friends to get together. I’ve mainly learned to cook from my grandma and my older brother. With cooking being a big part of my family, I’ve always been observant of how my family prepares dishes since I was a little girl, and I’ve tried to transfer their skills, approaches and recipes into my cooking.
And so, inspired by the classic cookbooks that could long be found on a shelf in an American kitchen, I, as a cooking connoisseur, decided to make some signature dishes for brunch, dinner and dessert from The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I then compared the results with more modernized versions of recipes that are easily found on Pinterest.
Cooking six recipes, you can bet there was never a dull moment. The days often ended with me in the kitchen being coated in a blanket of snowy flour, or frantically running to the stove to make sure the dishes weren’t burning. But what was so special is that at the end of each day, these meals were cause for the whole family to gather together and laugh — whether it was about how how my cake ended up tasting like a soggy chocolate sponge, or how a particular recipe reminded them of an endearing but long-dead relative.
For brunch, my goal was to create a simple yet tasty dish, so I turned to Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking. The cookbook made its debut on shelves during the Great Depression when Rombauer, a high-society wife who was used to having others cook meals for her, lost her husband and found herself in economic turmoil. Needing a way to make money and ease her grief, she came up with the idea of writing a cookbook, even though some people who knew her thought she was a lousy cook. But many high-income families hit hard by the Depression suddenly found themselves without maids, butlers and cooks to help them prepare dinner, so somebody had to do all the kitchen work. Rombauer was able to use her saleswoman skills to hawk the book door to door and create what has become one of America’s most prized cookbooks — with about eight updated editions.
From her book, I chose Eggs in the Nest, an enticing dish that turned out to resemble a breakfast casserole. The texture was light and airy, and the recipe was very easy to follow. For the online counterpart, I looked at the website We Heart It, which offered a simple alternative to frying an egg in pan-toasted bread. Both dishes were an easy treat to make perfect when accompanied with a knock-off, nonalcoholic mimosa (consisting of orange juice and sparkling cider).
Rombauer might not be a name familiar to teens, but they may recognize Julia Child through the 2009 movie Julie and Julia, starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. The touching film tells the story of a blogger who sets out to cook all the recipes in Child’s first book, while also relating the story of Child and the start to her cooking profession. Unlike Rombauer, Child had taken cooking lessons in America and France before publishing her first cookbook, including Mastering the Art of French Cooking, first published in 1961, which became a bestseller for years. Others might recall her from the television shows Baking With Julia and The French Chef. This all inspired me to take on one of Child’s iconic dishes — Beef Bourguignon, a beef stew braised with Burgundy wine.
When baking Child’s classic stew, I found an adapted version of her recipe online at Epicurious and I turned on a classic black-and-white episode of The French Chef, found on YouTube. While listening to Child’s hearty laugh and helpful tips as she diced up mushrooms and beef cutlets, I was able to grasp the basic motions and process of making this iconic stew.
The meal proved not to be so complicated, but it was rather time-consuming as it took about six hours to make. The same could be said about the more modernized version cooked from a recipe found on Pinterest for Beef Bourguignon Pot Pie from a 2015 Bon Appétit magazine. While both dishes came out rich in flavor, the classic Child version proved to be more zestfully tasteful. It may have been because when cooking Child’s version, more attention was given to technique when watching Child prepare the dish. Plus I used higher-quality wine such as Sea Phantom (which you can get from Smith’s for about $27), resulting in the stew having better coloring.
Saving the best for last, dessert was derived from Child’s second volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I chose a cornstarch-based chocolate cake with a citrusy twist called Le Glorieux. The recipe held up to its reputation of having a rich and light texture. The first bite of the cake may come off as overpowering, with its strong citrus notes, but this might have been because I added too much orange zest into the batter and substituted the unsweetened baking chocolate with dark chocolate. As a result, a slim slice of this rich cake — along with a creamy scoop of vanilla ice cream on top — did the job when it came to satiating my sweet tooth.
For a more recent version of the cake, a flourless chocolate orange cake was found on Pinterest and a recipe adapted by Nigella Lawson found on the blog NeighborFood was prepared. With a cake that only had seven ingredients and could be made in a blender, it seemed too good to be true. The process is quick and easy. Boiling oranges for two hours is the only laborious part, and it only takes about 15 minutes to prepare the rest of the batter. The result was the cake some people in my family thought tasted like “wet chocolate sponge.” Although this recipe wasn’t a hit exactly, it also wasn’t too bad with a dollop of whipped cream on top.
A once-famous lady with a string of pearls around her neck and a hearty laugh might say, “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients.” And Julia Child was right. I learned when attempting to make complex stews and indulgent chocolate cakes not to overcomplicate things and to pay attention to detail while trying to get the most out of my ingredients on a friendly budget. More often than not, the classic recipes proved to be the most reliable, as well as my family’s dedication to eating whatever science experiment was put on the dining table that day.
Cooking always is easier to do with good company in hand and a good set of pearls around your neck, and with practice I learned you have a good chance to perfect the most complicated of recipes. And you get to share the results with family members and friends. So bon appétit!
Beef Bourguignon, right, and Beef Bourguignon Pot Pie, left. A flourless chocolate orange cake, left, and Julia Child’s Le Glorieux, right.
An original 1931 edition of the iconic The Joy of Cooking cookbook written by Irma S. Rombauer and her daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker, in 1997.
Julia Child shows a salade nicoise she prepared in the kitchen of her vacation home in Grasse, southern France. Child changed the way Americans look at food.