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FFT Julia Child Episode

 “Food For Thought: The Julia Child Episode” Transcript

Kerry Diamond: Hi, everyone. This is Kerry Diamond. I know all of you are facing very difficult times right now. Cherry Bombe is working hard to gather resources and information for our community of small business owners and service workers. Please visit\resources. We're adding information for each city and state as we hear of it. We love you and we will continue to fight for you as long as we can.

Kerry Diamond: Hi, Bombesquad, welcome to food for thought. A radio Cherry Bombe mini series. I'm Kerry Diamond, founder of Cherry Bombe Magazine. We wanted to know what's on the mind of food folk across the country, so we went on tour to eat, drink, and talk with 100s of you, and recorded the whole thing live. Once we finished our tour, we realized that three of our talks centered around one very iconic person in the food world, Julia Child. We know Julia's pioneering spirit, culinary talent and sheer joy in the kitchen inspires everyone in the Bombe squad and we wanted to share these stories with you.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you to Kerrygold for supporting our food for thought tour. Kerrygold is the Irish brand known for its award winning butter and cheese made with milk from grass fed cows, from family farms all over Ireland. We'll be hearing more about their amazing products later, so, stay tuned. First up, we'll hear from Diane Rocha, a retired school teacher and an enthusiastic amateur baker in California who happens to have a very special connection to Julia.

Diane Rocha: Yes, I taught English and history in Vista, California for 22 years. Damn near killed me. But this young woman right here, Emily Myers, who came down here with me was my student 15 years ago. And I was a big grammar teacher because I went to Catholic school, right? So, we're doing this grammar exercise and it said, "Julia Child, the French chef, and whatever else the sentence said." And so, I said to the students, this is about 2004-ish, and I said, "So Julia Child, you all know who Julia Child is?" And I got... It was seventh grade, I got these blank looks.

Diane Rocha: And I said, "Let me tell you about Julia Child." Told them the whole story about who she was and the French Chef, and how she was 50 years old when she first started and I was 40 when I became a teacher and so this, that and the other. And then I told them the story about how in 1989 I was a stay at home mom. I had my two kids, Kate and Matthew, who were six and four, no, six and two and Julia Child came to town to La Jolla to Warwick's books for her book signing of The Way To Cook, her last book that she wrote on her own. And I said, "I have to go see her. I have to meet her. I just have to do this."

Diane Rocha: In the meantime, as the stay at home mom, I was getting bored. So, I started making English muffins. And do you all... I don't know if you're local, do you all know the Pannikin?

Audience: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Rocha: Okay. So, I sold English muffins to the Pannikin, because the guy who used to own the Pannikin rode motorcycles with my then husband. And one day he came over for what they called the Norton Prince of Darkness motorcycle ride and Chili Cook Off, you can tell which part I was in that. And I said, "Hey Bob, you want to try some English muffins?" And he said, "He had one with my homemade strawberry jam on it," and he said, "These are great." And I said, "Good, do you want to buy some because I need to do something out of the home and make some money." And he said, "Yeah." So, two gross a week from my little kitchen when I was living over by San Diego State, it was hilarious.

Diane Rocha: So, this is when I was still doing that. So, I got the babysitter for the baby Matthew because he was two, he would never have known the difference. And I took Kate with me. Now Kate was six and so she'd been watching, well they were videotapes at that point, Julia did something, I can't... might have been called The Way to Cook. She did a series of videotapes and Kate and I would watch them. And Kate's birthday cake every year was the classical Genoise with the whipped cream and the strawberries on it.

Diane Rocha: And so, I took Kate with me. We drove to the Hallway. We walked in, no Julia, no Julia... By the way, I made her a dozen English muffins, packed them up in a box, wrote her a letter. Dear Julia, you are the one who taught me how to cook. My mother thought she did, but she didn't. You're the one who really did with your show Julia Child & Company and Julia Child and More Company. Oh, I've learned everything I've known from you.

Diane Rocha: And so, there she is, she walks in, and Kate's going, "Mom, mom." And I said, "I know, I know she's here." So, we get in the line, we're waiting in the line and, you know, they always have the helpers with them when they're big like that. I don't mean in stature, I mean you know. And so, the lady... And I said, "Here's this box, it's got English muffins in it. I made them because have this little business." So, it's my turn, she hands the box to Julia. I swear to God she really did this. She took her... I was looking in her eyes and she was sitting down because she really was 6′2″.

Diane Rocha: She's banging on the box, "Oh goody, goody gumdrops homemade English muffins." She's really did say that it was so funny. And I said, "Yes." And she's... And I told her that I was making them, well I guess professionally I was getting paid for it. So, I guess that makes it a profession, right? And she said, "I'm so..." she got very serious, "I'm so glad you're doing this. We need more cottage industry like this." And I thought, "Oh my God." She said, "English muffins." She said to me, "How do you get them to cook so that they're cooked all the way through and not burn on the outside?" And I'm going, "Julia Child is asking me how to do this?"

Diane Rocha: And then I remembered her recipe didn't work. This was not her recipe. This was from a jam book called Jams Chez Madeline or something like that. And I said, "Well, that is the secret, isn't it?" And I told her how I did it and it was all about rolling it around in a bowl of corn meal. And I said, "Like you had taught me on one of your shows about corn meal being like a ball bearing." And she said, "Oh, I never really thought about that." And it was unbelievable. I couldn't believe it.

Diane Rocha: So, we're in the store and she signs the book and she didn't sign much of anything, you know good luck or whatever. And then Kate and I are lurking around the store watching her some more. And she... Oh, and you should've seen Kate, I have to say, you know how moms are, right? So, this kid of mine is six years old and she's just standing there looking at her. And Julia said some things to her, I can't remember what it was, but it was really cute.

Diane Rocha: So, okay, fast forward. It's 2010, I'm on what I called my Odyssey. Because I decided being a teacher, I needed to take some time off during the summer and actually do something and not stand at the Xerox machine getting ready for the next school year, those old grammar packets, remember those? And so, I took off. I went on this Odyssey, I went up to Portland just to go to Powell's Books because I needed more cookbooks, right, to add to that 4,000 collection.

Diane Rocha: And so, I'm coming back, I mean, it was 2010, so I'm in my little Volkswagen Cabrio with the top down. Bonnie Raitt blasting, having a great time and the car dies on the side of the road. I barely got... I got two tires off the road. That was it. And I'm talking about on, this is very near... Oh, I was four miles North of Point Arena, which is 250 miles North of San Francisco on the one, not the 101. The one that goes like this and you can only drive 25 miles an hour, thankfully.

Diane Rocha: So, I've got my two tires off on the side of the road and some guy comes, turns around, takes his truck and pushes me the rest of the way off the road. And I was a little nervous about that. He called whoever, the tow truck comes, I'm taking pictures of the tow truck taking my car away. They take me down to Point Arena. I was on my way to that lighthouse because I also liked lighthouses. And now I'm stuck there for a week because I don't know if I can say this, but what is the industry in Humboldt County?

Audience: Marijuana.

Diane Rocha: Growing pot, exactly. So, the town of Point Arena is about five blocks long. The entire town is stoned. It looks like you can see smoke through the whole thing. So, he kept my car for a week, never fixed it, charged me $1,000, never fixed it. He had it towed to Healdsburg where his brother fixed it for another $1,000, that's another story. Anyway, so I put it up on Facebook, the picture of my car being towed. And one of my friends called and he said, "I love Point Arena. You have to go meet the Jam Lady." I said, "Okay, okay. I'll meet the Jam Lady."

Diane Rocha: So, I walk a mile down the road, so I don't have a car and I turn right. And there's a sign, the Jam Lady, her real name is Lisa Giocometti She calls herself the Jam Lady. She makes jam in Point Arena, sends it all over the place. I went and she has a full, a kitchen like that one, all stainless steel very professional and all that. We start talking blah, blah, blah. She says, "Yeah, I used to work for Barbara Tropp Chinaman cafe." And I said, "Oh my God, I love her."

Diane Rocha: We figured out, she cooked my dinner sometime before. I was like, "Oh my God, this is amazing." She says... And I told her the Julia Child story, Oh, I forgot to tell you part of it. She wrote me a letter. She answered my little note that I had scrawled on a little, tiny legal piece of paper. She wrote me a letter. Julia Child wrote me a letter I have evidence. And so I read, I wrote back to her, she wrote me again. I still owe her a letter. I don't know why I never finished that.

Diane Rocha: So, I'm telling this story to Lisa, the Jam Lady, she says, "Wait right here." Thinking okay, what's going on here? I'm in this really weird place. She disappears upstairs, comes down with a box, opens the box. She has a dozen flutes, champagne flutes from Julia's 90th birthday party. She says, "You need these." She gave me two of them. Isn't that amazing? I just went, "I'm a total stranger." And she said, "We're not strangers," she said, "You have to have these. They have to be yours." And I said, "Okay, thank you. Thank you, thank you." We wrapped them very carefully. They got home even through the bumpy Healdsburg thing.

Diane Rocha: And so, then on her hundredth birthday, and I'm not sure what... I think that was, I don't remember what year it was. On her hundredth birthday, I was home from school that day, I think it was in August. So I was home legally and I cooked everything, just all Julia Child stuff. And I called one of my friends. I said, "Come on over." We used the Julia Child flutes. We had a little split of champagne. We toasted her. I put it all up on Facebook. It was amazing. And now it's so funny I have those glasses. They're in my glass cabinet, but they're hidden in the back. And my son-in-law was here in February and he went to reach for that to put for his champagne. I said, "Oh no, no, look what that says on it." He says, "Julia Child's 90th birthday." I said, "You don't use those. You don't appreciate that. This is Julia Child, I mean, come on."

Diane Rocha: So, that is my Julia Child story. I love her, love her. The day that she died, my daughter was about 20 I think, she called me. She's living on her own. She called me, she says, "Mom, I have really bad news." I thought, "Oh, what's this? Are you in an accident?" She says, "Julia died today." And it was as if her grandmother, had my mother had died. We were so sad, we cried on the phone and you know who's better than Julia Child, right? Well now we have Ina but Julia Child in my heart.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you Diane and thank you for bringing me English muffins when we were in San Diego. Next we'll be traveling to Kansas City to hear from Christina Corvino, the co-owner and general manager of Corvino restaurant. Christina's journey has had its ups and downs, but one person always encouraged her.

Christina Corvino: All right, good evening. I'm Christina Corvino, welcome. I'm the co-owner, GM of Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room and a Certified Sommelier. And I am all these things because I failed at everything else I tried to do. When I was young, after school, I'd sit crisscross in front of the TV and I'd watched Julia Child. I loved her. She looked like someone who would invite you to her house and give you like a big bossomy hug when you walked in the door. Oh, and she was a really good cook too, but I never wanted to be a cook. I just really wanted to be Julia Child.

Christina Corvino: She, during one show was making a potato pancake and while trying to flip it in the pan, it fell apart all over the stove top. And she said, "See, when I flipped it, I didn't have the courage to do it the way I should have, but you can always pick it up if you're alone in the kitchen, who's going to see? But the only way you learn to flip things is just to flip them." Isn't that a kind and graceful way to address a mistake?

Christina Corvino: I want to talk to you about failure today because our intensive need for perfection is driving us into anxiety, addiction, depression, withdrawal. We're not taught how to confront failure and then how to move past it in a positive manner. I once had a little company called Red Dirt. In short, it was a retail line that collaborated with artisans in developing communities born out of my humanitarian work in West Africa. Also, in short, it was a heartbreaking failure, but I kept repeating entrepreneurial cliches in my head, never accept failure, keep grinding, you'll succeed. But that's not always true. All of us can picture someone who worked their heart out to the best of their ability with a great plan and they just didn't succeed. Maybe it was a bakery that you loved and they just never made money. Maybe it was an actress that never caught a break or maybe it's you and your dream.

Christina Corvino: I refused to accept the failure and stayed on a sinking ship when I should have grabbed a life raft and jumped off. I lost all the investment and pushed it even further losing my own personal life savings and my friendship with my partner. Failure affected my mental health because I believe that it meant that I was also a failure as a human being. I was depressed and not really working on anything, and I was so crushed with anxiety that I felt it physically. I shook my fist at God and cried, "Why?" Like we have moments in life, but like most of life tragedies, that question will never have an answer in our lifetime. Why couldn't I accept an appropriate amount of responsibility, feel my feelings, note the lessons and move on before so much destruction was done? Because we are hardwired to avoid failure.

Christina Corvino: There's astounding research that indicates that failure hurts us twice as much as success makes us happy. Thus, it explains why we as humans will go to great lengths to avoid loss or failure to the point of even squelching your desire to build and create a lead. As I researched more about failure, I learned that our brains automatically focus on the negative instead of the positive. So, I kind of wondered about that if it was true.

Christina Corvino: Case in point, Warren restaurants, so of course we have reviews on platforms like Yelp and Google. What do we spend the most time discussing? The random one star reviews. How about when we meet up for drinks with friends? How often do we overanalyze something bad that happened or maybe even just could happen? Or you all do what I do when I get dressed in the morning? I kind of make a mental list of what I wish was different. I'm not going to lie. It's a difficult paradigm shift to change your thoughts and conversations to focus on the good. But tomorrow I'm going to look in the mirror and say to myself, "Nice boobs." You do too.

Christina Corvino: You know how Oprah told us all to keep a gratitude journal? Because when we train our brain to focus on the positive, we feel happier and more fulfilled. Make a list to remind yourself of how awesome you are. It will nourish your soul to help you move on to your next big thing, which you need to do because if we're not growing, we're rotting. So, one day, my sort of masochistic husband said, "Let's open a restaurant." And I had to dig down real deep to find a spark of courage to pull me into a new adventure in a world I also knew little about. I nurse my curiosity back and in turn it inspired me to learn how to run a restaurant and how to study to become a sommelier.

Christina Corvino: I've come to understand that it is beautiful that in your failure to achieve something and what you do instead makes you uniquely you, honor that story because it's your story. Julia Child, finish up her commentary on that broken potato pancake saying, "Anytime that anything like this happens, you haven't lost anything because you can always turn it into something else. So in this case, we'll put a little bit of cheese on it and we'll pretend this was supposed to be a big potato dish." You are complicated, evolving, adaptable human beings capable of harnessing all of life's simple and complex joyous. Put that curious spirit to work for you. Thank you.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you, Christina. We'll be right back with our next piece of wisdom after we hear a word from Kerrygold.

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Kerry Diamond: Welcome back. Now we're heading to Baltimore, Maryland to hear from dietician and recipe developer, Jessica Grosman about her moment with Julia Child.

Jessica Grosman: Good evening. I'm Jessica Grosman, a registered dietician, recipe developer and culinary instructor. I'm also a wife, my husband's sitting right there, a mother, a home cook, and a paper lover. It's this love of paper what it represents in the kitchen that brings me here tonight. How many of you grew up with a box of recipe cards on your kitchen counter, handwritten and often grease stained? I used to shuffle through my mom's box when I was barely tall enough to see over the kitchen counter.

Jessica Grosman: As an ambitious eight-year-old, too impatient and too lazy to look for a recipe, I nearly burned my house down trying to cook pancakes. Recipe cards were my first entrance point into the food world, but they lack the visuals that are key for any great recipe. While my friends were reading Sweet Valley High books, I was reading my mom's good housekeeping magazines, always on the search for a visually appealing recipe that I could make with my ever-increasing skills and confidence in the kitchen. I used to watch Julia Child on PBS and I often imitated her voice as I cooked.

Jessica Grosman: My sister preferred the Swedish Chef on the Muppet Show, but I knew that Julia Child was the real deal. By my early adolescent years, I became obsessed with food and cooking. Besides my mom's recipe box and magazine clippings, there wasn't a collection of cookbooks in our house, just a few synagogues sisterhood cookbook, all pictureless. Today I have a cookbook collection that constantly inspires and excites me. Back when I was a teenager, my favorite reading material was the Williams-Sonoma catalog. I'd read every page, every product description. I asked my mom to replace her trusty Revere ware copper bottom pots with All-Clad stainless steel. She still has the Revere ware.

Jessica Grosman: I dreamed of having a big kitchen someday to fill with all the gizmos and gadgets sold on the pages of the catalog. The paper, those recipe cards, good housekeeping magazines and Williams-Sonoma catalogs were my first teachers when it came to food and cooking. There was no internet, just an infinite amount of paper full of inspiration. I studied nutrition in college, taking a rigorous course load to prepare me for becoming a registered dietician. I took lots of science classes, psychology and nutrition, and my all time favorite college course, a food lab.

Jessica Grosman: One time I had to make eight different pie cross using eight different types of fat. It's no wonder that my first job was at Williams-Sonoma store. You know I loved those catalogs and they needed seasonal help at my local store. I knew inventory so well already and I even knew the parking lot. I'd learned to drive my mom's car in that parking lot.

Jessica Grosman: So, I balanced my nutrition studies, selling All-Clad pie plates and lemon esters. Then would head back to the nutrition lab where I'd continue to play with food. When I moved to Boston to pursue my master's degree, I was hired into the managerial team at the Flagship Williams-Sonoma store. There everything was a little bigger, a little better, and they had an amazing chef program, which brought chefs like Lydia Shire, Joanne Chang, Jody Adams, Barbara Lynch among others to the store to demo a recipe, sign cookbooks and pose for photographs.

Jessica Grosman: In November, 1999 just two years after I was initially hired as a seasonal employee in my small Cleveland store, I had one of the most memorable days of my life. My Boston store was Julia Child's home store, the closest location to her house in Cambridge, Mass. By this point, she was living full time in Santa Barbara County, but she occasionally returned to Boston to teach Jacques Pepin, and to appear at a yearly in store event. On the day of hundreds or maybe thousands of eager customers lined up hours before the 10:00 AM store opening. They carried their tattered, mastering the art of French cooking cookbooks to get signed. Oftentimes hauling tote bags full of Julia's cookbooks. These lifelong fans carried cameras. This was well before the days of iPhones and social media sharing.

Jessica Grosman: The store was a zoo on Julia Day. We had books piled up to be purchased and autographed. Customers grabbed whatever they could to have signed, wooden spoons, pot holders, dish towels, anything that was able to get the imprint of Julia's pen. I was assigned to sit at the table with Julia, as you saw in the photo to manage the crowd and keep the personal comments brief. She was nearly 87 years old by then, but still as gregarious as I remembered from her PBS shows.

Jessica Grosman: Julia was an imposing figure over six feet tall plus a pile of quaffed hair. She wore a heavy strand of pearls, so classically elegant and almost regal. She sipped tea from a delicate cup between her brief interactions with her loyal fans, all wanting more than a small piece of attention they were granted. Her comments were short and direct. This was not a woman who made small talk.

Jessica Grosman: On November 17th, 1999 I met Julia Child, my culinary hero, and a hero to so many others. I think she resonated with so many because she was magnanimous, passionate, and funny, and because she found her calling relatively late in life. How inspirational was that? It's not too late for any of us to find our voice through food. I think the secret is to stay connected to what resonates within. For me, it's paper. This physical connection to recipes, they're like a map, a journal, a gentle guide to where we've been, where we are, and where we might go. Reflecting back nearly 20 years since that fateful day, and in my 20 years, nearly 20 years as a registered dietician, I ultimately believe that Julia's message was simple. Cook the foods you love for those you love. Surround yourself with good food, good wine, and good people, and you'll always have a good time. She touched my life innumerable ways. There's no comparison for this culinary giant. Julia was the icon of all icons.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you, Jessica. That's it for today's show. A big thank you to Kerrygold for supporting our tour and providing us with beautiful butter and cheese at each stop. Our show as always, was produced by Jess Zeidman. Thanks for listening everyone. You are the Bombe.