If you love cooking shows of all stripes, then you have to love Julia Child. Her first show, “The French Chef,” on public television station, WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts, was really one of the first cooking shows on television. Julia isn’t just responsible for our (glut?) of cooking shows either. She’s really an early evangelist for Americans to become knowledgeable home cooks eager to go beyond the processed, bland food that was pretty common in post-World War II American cuisine. “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was all about making French food accessible to the average American home cook. I may sound really over the top, but Julia Child did so much to change how Americans relate to food.
If you have a chance, I highly recommend reading her memoir, “My Life in France”. I kinda got teary in parts. I’m a sucker for people who find their passions late in life. It’s also tons better than “Julie & Julia.” Really.
As a special treat, here’s a great little mashup of some of Julia’s televisions series over the years with auto-tune (of course) because it is in fact 2012. Enjoy!
A few months ago, I was lucky to see “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, a movie about the acclaimed 85 year-old sushi chef, Sukiyabashi Jiro. He owns a teeny little sushi restaurant in a subway station in Tokyo. While it doesn’t sound like the makings of anything big, his restaurant is considered one of the best places to eat sushi in the world according to the folks at the Michelin Guide, one of the most respected (most of the time) food guides around.
Here’s the trailer for a taste of what I’m talking about:
I have to say that while the sushi porn was great, it was really Jiro’s life story and the examination of his relationships to others that was really the most compelling part of the documentary. I learned five lessons from Jiro that have nothing to do with sushi.
1. Sometimes our parents are hard on us for reasons we don’t understand. A central part of the movie is Jiro’s complex relationship with his sons, especially his oldest son, Yoshikazu. I was taken aback when he said that he pushed them harder than his other apprentices because he wanted to mak sure they’d be successful after he was gone (sorry for the spoiler there!). I wonder if his sons realize this. If you’re like me with a mother whose love can seem a little crazy (I love you, Mom!), it can take you a while to understand that. Sometimes our parents are pushing the manners, the hard work and the studying because of they want us to survive and thrive in this world. I’ve had moments where I’ve been “OMG! Stop!” to my mother, but it’s taken me the last 5-10 years of my life to appreciate my Mom’s high expectations. Thanks, Mom! Although I will say, I am now worried for Baby TAO, if and when he or she comes along.
Jiro (center) with his son, Yoshikazu (right) and their apprentices
2. Work your tail off, and learn your craft. Jiro is a master sushi maker. He is a complete believer in the Japanese mantra of shokunin kishitsu, the craftman’s spirit. He knows everything about what it takes to make the freshest, most delicious sushi possible. He has worked so hard for so long, and I have to admire him for that. The amount of time, care, attention to detail, and desire to achieve excellence is overwhelming to a mere mortal like me. I sometimes think I don’t work hard enough at a few things professional and otherwise. I am my worst critic, but occasionally I deserve it. To see Jiro’s drive, even at the age of 85, is inspiring.
3. Be excellent, but be balanced. At this point in my life, I feel like my life has some balance (some things are getting more attention than others right now). I know it won’t always be this way, but I like that I can focus on many different aspects of my life. I don’t know if Jiro ever did that. His work was so central to him to the point where other aspects of his existence just didn’t get much attention. I don’t think you need to be solely focused on one thing in life to be exceptional, successful and fulfilled.
Jiro working with Yoshikazu and an apprentice
4. Keep it simple. I was shocked that all Jiro serves at his restaurant is sushi. That’s it. Sometimes it’s not about being the best at everything but doing one thing to the best of your ability.
5. Your past doesn’t determine your future. Jiro overcame so much at an early age. There were so many ways he could have given up, failed or decided to just make it day by day because of the hand he was dealt. He didn’t. Respect.
I think Jiro Dreams of Sushi is on DVD now, so I definitely urge you to check it out. Unlike me, watch it on a full stomach because all of that sushi WILL make you hungry. Maybe one day I’ll make it to Tokyo and try Jiro’s or Yoshikazu’s sushi. Although some people claim it isn’t all that great? I’ll wait to make that decision. If you’ve been, please let me know about your experiences in the comments section.
Do you have a favorite food-focused documentary or movie?
I came across this post on the the blog of the stylish Ms. Tiffany of Makes Me Blush. I warned her in the comments section that I was stealing this. Apparently, this was on Facebook, but my food nerd friends missed it!
Here’s a list of 100 things that you should try to eat before you die. I was surprised by a few items on this because I just thought that most people would have eaten these items already, but maybe that’s the small food snob in me?
However, the overachieving blogger in me has added some links in case you might not know what something is. In some cases, I just assumed that most people would know a particular item.
How many of these items have you eaten? Mine are in bold, and my final number is below.
I’m going to squeeze in one more post for Black History Month before February ends. I know that I’m lucky that I had an extra day.
If you’ve noticed that I didn’t do any Black History Month posts re: food, you’re perceptive. I know that there are historical figures in food, but it took a little more effort to find them than I thought it would. I found these five inventors and their inventions and were surprised by many of them.
1. George Crum invented the potato chip as we know it in 1853 in Saratoga Springs, New York.
My favorite potato chips. What are yours?
2. George Washington Carver, scientist and inventor, creates 145 different products utilizing peanuts, including peanut butter.
My favorite peanut butter. Do you like crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
3. Joseph Lee invented and patented improvements to the dough kneading machine, the precursor to modern day bread making machines.
My mom has one of these. If you make bread at home, do you use a machine or do it the old fashioned way?
4. Alexander P. Ashbourne invents the biscuit cutter in 1875.
5. Alfred Cralle invented and patented the ice cream scooper in 1897 after noticing that ice cream shops dispensed ice cream in an inefficient way.
I wish it were warmer outside, so I could actually eat ice cream.