As a kid, I would watch Julia Child on TV with my mother incessantly. To honor what would have been the year of her 100th birthday (2012), the IACP ran a first-time writing contest called The Legacy of Julia Child Awards. On a whim, I penned a quick piece about growing up British in New York, swapping fruit roll-ups for my celery sticks at school, and watching the legendary Julia whip up some deliciousness. In a bizarre turn of events, I somehow made the finalist list. Go figure. Anyway, here’s the piece I entered:
“She means aubergine.”
As a Brit growing up in New York City, there were times when I wasn’t really sure where I was from. My parents were English, that much I knew. The angst, Doc Martens and dark eyeliner of adolescence still many years off, I had a sense that my family spoke differently, but was still at a stage where I unconsciously spoke “English” to my mum and dad at home. At school, I spoke with the same neutral, regionless “American” accent as my classmates. Maybe it was in hopes of fitting into the lunchtime ritual of swapping my carrot sticks and celery for a piece of fruit rollup, maybe it was that unerring ability of kids to avoid sticking out. Whatever the reason, I spoke like an American at school, like an English girl at home, but never quite picked up the substitutes for English ingredients. Partly because my mother would gently “correct” me when I used an American word.
“Not zucchini, say courgette.”
It wasn’t with any snobbish intent, really, just that in the back of her mind, unbeknownst to me, we’d be moving back to London someday and I’d need to speak like her. A fabulous self-taught cook, she grudgingly made me PB&Js for school lunch as the occasional treat, but at home it was a regular diet of cinnamon-stuffed apples, pasta carbonara, cassoulet and other dishes that she considered wholesome, but that fit the fussy palates of me and my sister, who at three years older than me, was arguably smarter, but no less picky when it came to mealtime. Like many Brits who learned how to cook in the 1970s, good food meant French food. Many of the dishes she made were straight from Julia Child, who to add to my confusion, seemed sort of American and French at the same time. Click here to read more.