The Pantheon: The French Chef

It may appear from reading this blog that pop culture is my ruling passion, but it's actually in second place. Anyone who knows me knows that food and cooking is my real obsession. Someone could say to me "Hey, I just had lunch and then ran into a major celebrity!" and the first thing out of my mouth would be "What did you have for lunch?"

So when episodes of The French Chef became available on Netflix, I jumped at the chance to rent them. Naturally, I'm familiar with Julia Child, but the show itself was well before my time. Most of what I knew of Child comprised a lot of second-hand anecdotes relayed by other people, and I was anxious to see the source material.

The French Chef ran on PBS from 1963-1973, and when I watched the DVDs, it became important to keep reminding myself of that. Sometimes it can be difficult to judge an original work when so much has been based on it since then, and the more I told myself that the show I was watching aired 40 years ago, the more impressed I was.

After all, cooking fine French cuisine was not considered at the time to be something the general populace would be capable of, let alone should want to do. This was the era of those gloriously terrible, gelatinous casseroles. Beef Bourguignon was something you'd have to go to a fancy restaurant for, not something to be whipped up in your kitchen. What a breath of fresh air this show must have been. And now that we've been through a couple of generations of the cooking shows that followed it, it's worked its way around to being a breath of fresh air again.

The French Chef lacks even a hint of the pretension a lot of celebrity chefs display in the modern era. Julia Child did not slap her name on whatever product she thought could rake in a few bucks. She did not earn her reputation solely on the basis of judging reality shows. She did not craft a phony personality so she could come off as more appealing to audiences. Her love of food was and is infectious, and she was never afraid to admit mistakes - some of the most endearing scenes of The French Chef are her attempting to salvage something that she's just goofed.

The use of food and cooking as pop culture entertainment has come a long way in the past forty years, but not all of its advances have been beneficial. I'm not always one to talk about the good ol' days, but in the case of The French Chef, there's a lot the Food Network could learn from the woman who started it all.


Post a Comment

Copyright © Slice of Lime