TV, Julia and Chopping Onions

Not so long ago I published a post called A Kind of Foodie Sort of Blog Post. It was about cookery and food and brought me in quite a few new readers as well as some new subscribers. A lot of those subscribers were food bloggers and to a certain extent they must be feeling a little short changed with their new subscription as I haven’t written much on the food and drink subject since. Anyway, at least they have had some different content for a change, stuff about 60s and 70s TV shows, classic films and secondhand books and so on. A change is a good as a rest as they say. Anyway, perhaps it’s time to redress the balance and thank those new readers for their support with another foodie sort of blog.

I’ve not been at my best this week. I tested positive for Covid 19 and at one point I felt so bad I thought I might have picked up Covid 20 and 21 as well. I’m feeling much better now and another positive lately has been in the bread making department. A few weeks ago, I made a loaf of bread without the assistance of my bread maker. I’d read somewhere that it’s best to make a wholemeal loaf using a combination of white and wholemeal flour. I found a recipe in one of my numerous cookery books which called for 500g of flour so I thought I’d use 250g of each. As it happened, I only had a little wholemeal flour so I made up the shortfall with white. I added my yeast and salt and olive oil, mixed it up and gave the result a good kneading and left it to prove for thirty minutes.

It rose quite well so I gave it a second kneading and then found I didn’t have a tin in which to bake it. After a rather frantic search I came across one of my mother’s old cake tins and used that. My bread later came out of the oven looking wonderful and tasted just as good. I do love warm bread with a good lashing of butter. Now you might be thinking well done, he’s managed to make himself a loaf of bread, bravo! Yes, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself but could I reproduce that feat, could I make another?

Only yesterday I made another loaf using a 50-50 white and wholewheat flour mix. It wasn’t quite as good as the first one so I reckon in future I might use a 40-60 mix, even so, I’m already looking forward to the next loaf. Also, the thing is, once you have some great bread you need something equally as good to have with it, great cheese or pâté or great soup even. Perhaps it’s time to take a look in my cookbooks or see what my favourite TV chefs have to offer on the small screen.

Talking about TV chefs I want to talk about a TV show, a current TV show. Yes, not from the 1960’s or 70’s like I usually write about but an actual current mainstream TV show. It’s Julia, the story of American TV chef Julia Child.

These days a lot of new TV shows always seem to be on some TV channel that I don’t have access to, Disney+ or Netflix for instance but happily, Julia is currently showing on Sky Showcase which, thanks to Liz’s Sky subscription I can actually get to see.

Those of us in the UK are probably not that familiar with Julia Child. In the 1950’s she lived in Paris with her diplomat husband where she embarked on a training course to be a French chef. She learned all the tricks and techniques of French cookery and she was so keen about it, she decided to write a cookery book called Mastering The Art of French Cooking which she hoped would bring the excellence of French cuisine into the American home.

The TV series picks up Julia later living back in the USA when she gets invited onto a local TV show to talk about her book and rather than just talk about cookery she took into the interview room a hot plate, a pan and some eggs and proceeded to cook the interviewer an omelette.

Julia is played by Sarah Lancashire, a British TV veteran. She started her career in TV soap Coronation St where she played the dizzy Raquel. She played the character for five years but then left to do other things as she apparently tired of the relentless fame of being a TV soap star. Since then, she has starred in many other TV productions and series. In 2000 she signed a ‘golden handcuffs’ deal binding her exclusively to the TV channel ITV. The deal was worth 1.3 million pounds and made Sarah the highest paid UK actress at the time.

It’s hard to say why I like Julia so much. Lancashire is excellent as Julia as is David Hyde Pierce who you might remember from the US sitcom Frasier where he played Frasier’s brother Niles. It appears to be a faithful reconstruction of 1950s America. It’s gently humorous and it’s interesting to see the dynamics of TV production in the 1950s, what the TV executives of the time thought would and would not work and also how the idea of a TV chef came about. There are no car chases and explosions but instead there is plenty of food.

I’m not a great cook myself but I do like watching food programmes, especially those that highlight the skills of a particular chef and how we, the great food eating, TV watching public can try to emulate them.

Now this isn’t the first time Julia has been portrayed on the screen. In 2009 Nora Ephron wrote and directed the film Julie and Julia. It was based on two books, My Life in France, an autobiography by Julia Child and a memoir by Julie Powell based on her blog, in which she decided to cook all 524 recipes in Julia’s cookbook, in a 365-day period. Meryl Streep played Julia Child in the film and I’d be hard pushed to name another film based on a blog, if indeed there are any. Meryl’s version of Julia Child was quite unsurprisingly very similar to Sarah’s and I’d be hard pushed to say which I prefer.

In the film Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, the blogger who decides to cook all of Julia Child’s recipes, all 524 of them for her blog. She experiences a number of disasters and frustrations but she finally pulls off her task and to her surprise, her blog ends up with a huge amount of followers and becomes a great success. The film also looks at the other Julia’s life in France and the trials and tribulations of learning to be a French chef. I mentioned earlier about the skills of a chef and I do love those moments in TV cookery when the celebrity chef will dazzle the viewer with their incredible chopping skills on an onion or something. For me it’s just chop, chop, chop, gradually getting through the onion. For the experts is one quick superfast ch-ch-ch-chop with an entire onion reduced to slices in seconds and in the film, Meryl Streep as Julia goes on a great chopping spree to hone her chopping skills.

I can completely identify with the disasters and frustrations experienced by blogger Julie as can most amateur cooks. Sometimes I have made a fabulous meal, other times I’ve produced that same meal using the same recipe and it’s been a little tame to say the least. What made the difference between the outstanding chilli from last week and the insipid offering from today? What did I do wrong? Was it the meat or the seasoning? Did I miss an ingredient? Usually, I never manage to work out why my food went wrong which is really annoying.

So, shall I look in my recipe books for a soup recipe to go with my fabulous fresh bread or just make a sandwich? Maybe it’s time to settle down with Julia Child’s book? I was saving it for a holiday read but what the heck, I think it’s time for a cheese sandwich, a cup of tea and a good read.


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