My (almost) 10 minutes of fame

by Bryan Salvage
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World-famous American chef, author and television personality Julia Child would have celebrated her 100th birthday last week on Aug. 15th. But unfortunately, she died on Aug. 13, 2004, at the age of 92 at her home in Santa Barbara, Calif. Ms. Child was most famous for introducing French cuisine to the American consumer with her debut cook book titled Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But she also made waves on American television hosting The French Chef, among other live cooking programs in the 1960s and later on.

When it came to writing recipe books and preparing meat dishes, Ms. Child was a pro. Her recipes for dishes ranging from hamburgers to stuffed breasts or flanks to pot roast to Beef Bourguignon were incomparable. Since my wife is a huge fan of Ms. Child — she has a library of Julia Child cook books and videos to prove it — I have been fortunate enough over the years to enjoy some of her recipes on occasion.

One week before Ms. Child’s 90th birthday in 2002, I received a phone call from a West Coast radio personality who was going to host a live broadcast during her birthday party in California the following week — and he wanted to interview me live during this program about the US meat industry. I‘ve long forgotten his name and the name of the radio station, but he was a very likeable guy when we spoke on the phone. He explained this interview would last approximately 30 minutes. He found some of my web news articles from that time and wanted to tap more into stories about the US meat industry.

Although surprised and deeply skeptical at first it might be a prank being pulled by one of my friends or relatives, I jumped at the chance to participate once I found out the offer was indeed legit. In the back of my mind I kept hoping that I would actually get to speak with Ms. Child during the interview. The radio personality and I spoke several more times before the night of the event just to make sure I was prepared to answer his questions.

Being a West Coast broadcast, he planned to call me around 10 p.m. Central time on the night of her birthday bash. I brushed up on all my recent web stories and features in hopes I wouldn’t make a fool out of myself. I had to admit I was anxious and uncomfortable about the thought of being questioned about meat during a live radio broadcast. I didn’t want to embarrass myself or my co-workers.

On the night of the broadcast, a producer from his program called me about 10 minutes before going on the air and I sat patiently awaiting the radio host to join me on the line.

After what seemed an eternity, he finally got on the line after a commercial break, greeted and introduced me, and he asked me something like what kind of meat I liked. After muttering a few words, his on-air side-kick butted in and told him all the meat products he liked and the two talked back and forth for about 10 minutes while I cooled my heels and just listened. After their lengthy discourse, he asked me another question. But before I could answer, his side-kick said something like, “Oh, we have a lot of folks to talk to and we need to take a commercial break. Thanks for joining us to celebrate Julia Child’s birthday!”, which was followed by a click and a dial tone shortly thereafter.

I sat stunned, disappointed yet somewhat amused as it appeared the radio host either got severely distracted and fell far behind schedule along the way or he didn’t plan very much for our so-called interview.

As for the interview, no one I knew dialed in to hear it nor did I ever hear again from the radio host. But what was most important, I remember reading the next day that Ms. Child thoroughly enjoyed her birthday bash and I believe my wife may have prepared one of Ms. Child’s meat recipes that night as a memento of her birthday...so it wasn’t a total loss for me after all.

In addition to knowing how to work with meat, Julia Child knew a lot about meat — and she urged consumers all along to learn more about the cuts that were available. “Every bit as important as how to stew, braise or roast beef is how to pick the right cut,” she wrote in From Julia Child’s Kitchen, published in 1975 in her chapter about beef. “This means knowing the meat cut, and the more you know the more meat you will get for your money.”

Although published 37 years ago, her advice still holds true today. Since we keep hearing that today’s younger consumers know little to nothing about preparing meat and poultry dishes from scratch, consider giving one of Ms. Child’s many cook books to your younger friends or relatives for their birthday or as a holiday gift. It’s never too late for them to learn the craft of preparing meat and poultry dishes — and who better to teach them than Julia Child? Bon Appetit!

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