I’ve been thinking about Julia Child this week. As you may know, what would have been her 100th birthday is tomorrow, August 15th. As most folks know, Julia was an enthusiastic cook and baker—and her specialty was French cuisine. French cuisine is rich and full of fat and sugar and alcohol and all of the things that taste delicious but that aren’t that good for you in large amounts. When asked about this, she replied with an oft-quoted remark that is one of my favorites. She said: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
To me this meant that she indulged her passion for French food without going overboard. She didn’t gorge on any of it at any one time, but she allowed herself to enjoy each thing to the fullest. As was quoted in a recent article about her, “She reiterated again and again that the best way to good health is ‘small helpings, no seconds, a little bit of everything, no snacking. And have a good time.’” This explains the caveat at the end of her first quote, “including moderation.” She wasn’t obsessive about her moderation. She just took a commonsense approach to food and eating.
As a baker and baking cookbook writer, I often get questions about the health factor (or lack thereof) of my recipes. People always seem to assume that our house is covered in baked items (kind of like the Hansel and Gretel house) and that Girlfriend, dAhub, and I are stuffing our faces full of cookies and cakes and pastries all day and night.
The reality is, we aren’t. Sweets are just one small part of the spectrum of food we eat. We try to eat a fairly healthy diet. We tend to eat almost exclusively organic food and we try to eat humanely raised poultry, fish, and small farm meats, while emphasizing fruits and vegetables. But, we don’t count calories. We just strive to eat a balanced diet and listen to our bodies. Occasionally, we crave things that aren’t that healthy—and we indulge those cravings in small amounts. We rarely have dessert, but when we do, we go for it. None of us overdoes it and eats half a cake, but we each enjoy a piece of cake fully and with abandon.
That said, baking—the process–is my passion. For me, baking is health food for the soul. I have to do it to maintain a healthy spirit. Baking is a creative process for me. I can lose myself in my baking time. I bake when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m bored, when I need a break, or when I need to de-stress. In addition, recipe development allows me to exercise my intellectual and adventurous side. I love to figure out how to do things. Over the years, I have found that I am very much a process person. I love to engage in the process and then quickly lose interest in the product. (It’s the same for me and knitting.) Therefore, while I love to eat baked items, the ingestion of them is often less interesting to me than the creation of them.
Don’t get me wrong: I love to eat homemade cookies and cakes and pastries just as much as the next person. And I love to share the results of my passion. I love to bake for friends and family and to see them enjoy the products of my work. It gives me great joy to share my passion. But, we try to include these things as small parts in a larger food picture for our family. And, I try to save the big things—a “pull out the stops” birthday cake, for example—for special times so that they don’t lose their specialness.
Now, I’m not speaking for or against anyone else’s approach to food. I just wanted to share my and my family’s approach. And to say thank you to Julia for sharing her commonsense approach to her passion for food. Thank you, Julia!