(Note: Chef Tony Marano assigned students in his Culinary Foundations I class at the California Culinary Academy to write a short essay on our reactions to a book about food and cooking. This is my essay.)
Food is culture.
Julia Child’s “My Life in France” bears witness to that, revealing her embrace of the fullness of French cuisine and the way of life it represents.
She fell in love with French food and cooking and inevitably with the French people and everything about them. She learned their language, allowing her to encounter and befriend them and adopt French life in every sense.
She appreciated from literally her first meal in France that good food well prepared by long-established and refined custom was the common denominator in French culture.
Her recounting of those experiences led me to recognize more clearly than ever that what I learned in my Mexican mother’s kitchen wasn’t cooking; it was culture. And when I cook from the repertoire of recipes and techniques that my mom taught me – both by osmosis and direct instruction – I am respecting and renewing my culture.
Rooted in corn and chiles, ours is a cuisine of robust flavors and smells and of bright and earthy colors. As such, it reflects the robust and colorful culture that is my heritage.
Julia Child inspires me to continue pursuing knowledge of food and culinary arts as part of my culture – how these foods, in this place, prepared in this way, presented and eaten thusly reveal the ongoing life of a people.
She ends her story by declaring that “the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite – toujours bon apétit!”
To which I say, ¡Claro que si – que aprovecho!