I started making crepes for breakfast again. One day our younger boy gave his food request: can we have crepes for breakfast? I receive such orders often, and we enjoy cooking food together. Usually it starts with an online search for best recipes with highest reviews.
Only this time, I knew where the best recipe was. I went to my bookshelf and pulled out a cookbook. It is Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. The two volumes are kept in the original sleeve and look like new. I learned how to make crepes from it and used to make them often.
However, I have not opened the books for nearly 15 years, although they traveled with me across the country.
I also never learned French cooking, except for a few simple recipes. Life moved on from the time when I was a student. Many events occurred. Two precious babies came to my life. Another year almost went by, and it is that time again when every sound in the air reminds us to look back before the year turns.
This morning I made crepes for breakfast. I was reminded of some of the amazing life lessons I learned from Julia Child’s books, which I would like to share with our children.
In her autobiography My Life in France, when describing her quiet college life, Julia Child said “I was just taking my time growing up”. It was a simple line in a rich book, but it struck me and stayed.
Back then I was a graduate student, new to this country and studying in a completely new field. Everything was hard, and nothing was good enough. I was eager to “grow up” so that I could reach a future when everything would be perfect.
It was refreshing for me to learn about how someone else was taking her time growing up. She started learning to cook in her 30s. After years of hard work and many rejections, she published her first cookbook at age of 49, and started her TV show one year later. She never allowed herself to finish learning or stop growing.
Julia Child was a food scientist, as well as a food artist. She did not only create, she also experimented with variations of ingredients and cooking methods, until her recipes were fail-proof. Experimenting makes it perfect.
Moreover, she stayed curious and never stopped exploring.
Many baking recipes Julia Child developed in France did not work for American home cooks at first. After relentless research, she found out water content in American flour differs from that in French flour. Instead of asking American families to look for French flour at their local specialty market, she tested different flours in her kitchen, until her recipe would work for every American kitchen.
After her recipes were published in the US, she got the feedback that the portion size was too small for a family. She was puzzled but then realized that on a typical American dinner table, there is usually one main course, whereas French dinner includes several dishes with smaller portions. She subsequently reworked the portion size in her recipes.
As dedicated as she was to her work, she embraced differences and challenges with unassuming attitude and curiosity.
This Thanksgiving morning, we enjoyed a breakfast with homemade crepes. Thanks to her hard work, I made it within an hour with everything I had at home. Whole wheat flour from India and eggs from Costco were good enough for Child’s recipe. To brag even more, I used a traditional Indian skillet called Tawa that worked perfectly.
Julie Child insisted “real butter” was good for us, when many others thought the opposite. Now, more recent research supports her view that fat is not bad for you. She and her husband Paul both loved to eat good food with real butter, and both lived to their 90s. Appreciation for real food with good flavors keeps us healthy.
It has been an unusual year for our family. Entrepreneurship, traveling, and new schools for our children. I am thankful for every progress we have made, every experience we have gone through, and every person who has been there for us.
We are thankful for this peaceful family time and all the love we have in our life.
I received my MD from PUMC in Beijing China and my Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Stony Brook University on Long Island. Over the years, I have worked in the fields of genetic research and clinical medicine in different parts of the US, including PA, MO, CT, FL, NY and MI. My research has been published in multiple scientific journals. Currently I live in Ann Arbor, MI with my husband and our children and Mango the orange tabby. I love hiking, running, baking, cooking and biking.