The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) was founded in 1969, two years after the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. Preceded by the National Education Television (NET), the purpose of PBS is to provide diverse, non-commercial educational programming. Television stations begin popping up across the country, including WGBH, a Boston based television station. In early 1963, WGBH and Julia Child partnered to create one of the most successful cooking shows in history, and the first hosted by a woman, ‘The French Chef’.
When The French Chef first launched, WGBH had no idea how inspired housewives would be by the show. This was before the time of customer experience research. Julia Child was a force of nature, taking the cooking world by storm.
I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.
As genuine on camera as off, people fondly remember her as kind, generous, loyal, curious, and with impeccable follow-up. Julia was known for remembering people and details years after meeting them. She would thoughtfully send handwritten notes in thanks. Julia lived life to the fullest and brought joy and delicious food into homes around the world. (Hudgins, 2017)
Each month at Overture System Solutions we research interesting national days to celebrate. In May I was excited to see National Coq au Vin day. Coq au Vin was the second recipe Julia made in July 1962s second pilot episode of The French Chef. WGBH officially picked the series up in 1963. The series aired until January 14th, 1973, for a total of 10 seasons and 204 episodes including the three pilot episodes. In case you were wondering, Coq au Vin shares May 29th with National 529 day and National Paperclip Day. After becoming hooked on HBO’s new series about Julia Child, I was inspired to find a creative way to celebrate Coq au Vin Day in her honor.
I started by, of course, by searching for the recipe online. Little did I know PBS has a site dedicated to the French Chef in recognition of what would have been Julia’s 100th birthday, August 15, 2022. Julia’s original Coq au Vin recipe, along with many others, is available on the site. I printed the recipe and headed for the kitchen to make a shopping list. Suddenly it occurred to me to truly step into Julia’s recipe, I needed to share the meal with others.
I reached out to my neighbor and invited her and her daughters to dinner, explaining I would be making Julia Child’s Coq au Vin. She quickly responded – I accept! Thinking about my upcoming trip to the grocery store I remembered a quote:
In department stores, so much kitchen equipment is bought indiscriminately by people who just come in for men’s underwear.
Julia passed away in 2004, and I wonder if she ever shopped at a Target with both the grocery side and the merchandise side! Would she have been amused to see this combination?
Friday came and I headed to the grocery store to round out the ingredients for the night’s dinner. I spent a week watching YouTube documentaries and two Harvard panels featuring family and close friends of Julia’s speaking about her life. I could feel her presence as I stepped into the store. With extra discrimination, I chose a wonderful French bread and fresh asparagus to compliment the Coq au Vin, which when translated means Rooster with wine. I like to think Julia would have been pleased with my selections.
Putting together the Coq au Vin was a lovely fragrant process with fresh rosemary, garlic, onions and simmering chicken. As recommended, I roasted potatoes with fresh dill and olive oil to round out my sides. Feeling inspiration, maybe from Julia, I roasted a bulb of garlic in red wine and olive oil to use as a spread for the French bread. Now simmering in wine and chicken broth, the meal was almost ready. The last step included removing the chicken to thicken the flavorful sauce, and then to add butter, bacon, and mushrooms. Replacing the chicken and simmering for the final few minutes, I began to set the table and warm the French bread loaf.
A knock on the door brought to life my dog security alarm system. Commotion erupted. I smiled, excited to share a meal with new friends over a nice bottle of wine. Sharing a meal you made with love, in my opinion, is a gift affection and service. We dug in with gusto, slathering roasted garlic spread on warm French bread, the rich sauce over the chicken, roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus rounding out the meal. And of course, wine.
Someone may offer you a freshly caught whole fish, like a salmon or striped bass. Don’t panic – take it!
Hudgins, S. 2017 Bon Appetit! The Life and Times of Julia Child. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gPNdWAxERg
Panel 1: France || Siting Julia ||Radcliffe Institute 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L03bZwJpbPQ
Charney, N. (03.10.2014) Cooking the Classics: Coq au Vin Recipe and History. https://www.finedininglovers.com/article/cooking-classics-coq-au-vin-recipe-and-history