Confronted With Leonine Passion:
The Joy that was Julia Child
Julia Child made America realize cooking could be fun as well as an expression of joy filled passion.
“Learn how to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun.”
– Julia Child
As Academy Award weekend is upon us, I must mention that in times past I have jokingly referred to those coveted golden statuettes as “Leo awards” due to the sign of the Lion having a natural proclivity for dramatics along with a high proportion of past Oscar winners being born between the end of July through the latter portion of August.
In astrology each of 12 signs rules over each of the 12 “Houses” or areas of Life. Leo oversees the 5th House of “Creative Self Expression” and that term in and of itself implies that creativity is not limited to expressing itself only through such “artsy” endeavors as oil painting on canvas or strictly through dramatics and acting.
Creativity can be expressed in countless ways and can take tangible form through any given venue, even those the rest of the world may not consider as being remotely interesting, as was my take on the drudgery that was “cooking”.
But that limited scope of closed mindedness was a part of my psyche before I encountered the incomparable Julia Child. This Leonine woman born on August 15th, 1912 single-handedly showed America that not only could cooking be fun, it could also be an expression of joy filled passion, as she so wonderfully made it for all of us to learn from and thoroughly enjoy.
Although I encountered Mrs. Child and her mastery of cooking when she was in her elderly years, the cook like no other left me with a memory of her passion filled approach to life that is one of my most treasured possessions.
As hinted earlier, Cooking was never my thing. Having the minimal interest in learning how and an even lesser amount of patience to incorporate what little I’d learned, I also was cursed with the common sense of a fruit fly that made my actions in the kitchen pointless. if not at times downright dangerous.
Culinary case in point – at the age of 14, my mother who had a bad case of the flu began preparing dinner one winter night for me and my extended family. She went to lay down and asked if I could “mash the potatoes.” I walked up to the stove, saw some white balls that resembled peeled legumes sitting in a pot of boiling water, and thought “Easy, enough.” I completed the task only to have my TV time abruptly interrupted soon after by my mother exclaiming her disbelief while holding the pot in her hands asking repeatedly what was wrong with me?
I didn’t see what the issue was considering the pot was filled with fully mashed, thickly white potato water.
With that said, when my TV time wasn’t being interrupted by my parents incredulously pondering how I came from their gene pool, it most definitely wasn’t spent watching cooking shows growing up. That is, of course, until the Lord of Karma huzzed an unsoftened legume’s worth of fate at the side of my head.
Twenty five years ago, I was a sushi addict. For a small window of time, it was pretty much all I ate until a particularly nasty Saturn transit hit and my body landed a nice big case of both food poisoning with some high doses of gastral bacteria thrown in for extra ill measure. For three weeks, all I could do was moan, sleep, and watch television. It was only the second or third day of my convalescence while in the midst of emitting a particularly pitiful moan that I looked up to notice a cooking show had come on the TV screen yet alarmingly, the remote control was nowhere within sight. By force of food poisoned necessity I was resolved in subjecting myself to the visual display of boredom that was before me and took comfort in knowing I could moan louder should the need arise.
Thus, Julia Child had just entered my life.
And it wasn’t just cooking that my dimly domestic mind was exposed to during this time. This was the early 90’s. Cable TV was still a motley crew of daytime programming chaos along with that now extinct marketing medium that I secretly worshipped was all the rage during that time – The Infomercial. Ironically, the plethora of “how to” shows that used to make me dive to change the channel as if I was sacrificing myself to save a platoon of soldiers from a tossed hand grenade, way too quickly became part of my daily regimen of recuperation. There were two back to back shows in particular that were an absolute necessity if my health (physical, mental and otherwise) was to be fully regained:
“Cooking with Julia Child” and “Living with Martha Stewart”.
I watched both programs totally engrossed as if I was a freshly landed space alien attempting to inhale as much as I could of this strangely beguiling and utterly incomprehensible behavior.
Allow your author, at this point of the harrowing story if he may, to make an astrological reference in a sociological, big pictured kind of way:
What has been the dominant medium in daytime television over the last 3 or so decades?
The Talk Show.
Who up until quite recently were the Titan rulers of the TV Talk Show?
Oprah Winfrey & Ellen De Generes.
Both Oprah and Ellen are born under which sign?
The talk show is an entertainment program where one person has control over everything and gets to talk to a bunch of different people from various backgrounds and ages as if they are close friends…. but really aren’t.
Fits a tad too perfectly for the Aquarian personality, who with their intellectually driven Air signed energy is curious to a point as to inquire about people and things they aren’t familiar with and thus engages in one of the air sign’s required-in- order-to-live activities – talking.
Now, the polar opposite sign of Aquarius is?
Instead of being a communication based elemental sign of air, Leo is?
A sign based in the action oriented element of Fire.
Both Julia Child and Martha Stewart are born under which sign?
Leo the Lion.
While Ellen was still masquerading as a near crazed straight girl who just couldn’t seem to find the right guy to get hitched with in “Mr. Wrong” and while Oprah was still allowing common folk to interrupt her dominion of global control whenever she asked “Caller, you say?”, the medium of the Aquarian Talk Show had a predecessor which was an all-action, “how to” program that showcased the all encompassing control, I mean leadership, skills of the sign that is the polar opposite of the Aquarian Talk Show Host – Leo.
I like to categorize this action oriented, “how to” TV genre as the “Talk While Showing” Show.
Before there was Oprah and Ellen, the Aquarian Ice Queens of the Talk Show were preceeded by their polar opposited mentors, the Leonine Monarchs of the Talk While Showing Show – Martha Stewart and Julia Child. Above: Martha assists Julia on her baking show as the two Leos creatively express themselves together by making a 3 tiered wedding cake.
Sure, the Talk While Showing Show involved talking at interspersed points throughout the duration of the program, but since this was a Fire, action-oriented medium, all talking was done while the host was immersed in the process of showing their audience the task at hand whether they were looking at the camera, at their audience or at neither. And yes, the Leonine hosts of the Talk While Showing Show did have guests appear and these guests were actually talked to…at times, but for the most part the show was all about the Head Honcho who predominantly appeared like a do-it-all Orwellian Big Sister whose Leonine name was part of the show’s title.
Control was the major factor of difference between the two Leonine Monarchs of the Talk While Showing Show. Whereas control was in every atom of every scene of “Living With Martha Stewart”, there was a very noticeable, in a playful kind of way, absence of it on “Cooking with Julia”. Keep in mind, my haphazard discovery of Mrs. Child occurred during the very tail end of her television career, what must have seemed eons from the debut of Julia’s first of its kind, trail blazing cooking show, “The French Chef” which initially aired in February of 1963.
Whereas Martha’s constant intensity never lost focus on successfully completing any given task or project presented on her show, Julia was completely relaxed in front of the camera and more importantly as a Fire sign – was always HAVING FUN! She spoke to her television audience as if the other half of her cooking investigatory Hardy Boys-like team that was standing next to her on set. Such as when Julia was given a high powered blow torch for the first time to melt confectionary sugar, I can still see her eyes bulging with excitement as she exclaimed “Oooo! I’ve never used one of these before! (Looking straight into the camera as torch is turned on at high flame) Let’s try it out and see what happens!”
It must be said that “Cooking with Julia” was not for the weak of heart (or stomach). Julia Child was a food purist to whom the culinary concepts of “low calorie“/”sugar free“/”diet food” simply did not exist and one who would rather not eat than compromise on such foundational ingredients as whole milk, pure butter, animal meat, whole sugar, salt, lard, along with wine, rum, brandy, and the like. Conversely, the master chef was in no way a foodie snob, either. I can recall a few occasions where Julia would openly state to the viewing audience her penchant for such common edibles as McDonald’s French fries along with that most popular of Happy Hour hors d’oeuvres – Goldfish.
The scene that I am about to describe as we return to your author no longer moaning on the Friday before having to return to work in 1991, is one where Julia Child presented a most special gift to her fans at large. A gift that was utterly personal and highly private that a Fire sign can present only when they have evolved into making each day of their life a passion filled experience.
We return to Brad, his couch, and early 90’s television….
At this point in time, all I knew of Julia Child was just the content of the “Cooking with Julia” programs I came upon by mistake. On that last day before saying goodbye to my Talk While Showing TV line up of “How to” shows, I had yet to know about Julia’s background and history. After learning about the woman’s fascinating life, Julia Child stood out to me as one of the best examples of Leonine evolution – from the bravery it took for her to be the first woman, let alone American, to attend and graduate from Paris’ renowned boy’s club chef school, The Cordon Bleu, to her infectiously good humored “Sun”ny disposition (Leo’s planetary ruler is the Sun, itself) to her fairy tale-like Romance with her husband, Paul Child whom she was married to for decades.
Technically, the romantic merging of the Fire sign of Leo with the Earth sign of Capricorn is considered a tepid union at best due to the angle between these two very different signs being the hot-and-cold classification of “inconjunct”. The Leo ruled 5th House oversees Creative Self Expression but also is known as the House of Romance and the loving romance shared between Julia and her husband, Paul Child was legendary. The dynamic of high romance between them is very similar to another well known Leo – Capricorn couple famous for the romantic affection they have for one another – Barack and Michelle Obama.
On this last show I had the luxury to watch, a well seasoned and markedly aged Julia had on as her guest one of her dearest friends, the renowned culinary expert and fellow Fire sign, Jacques Pepin. The repore between these two masters of the cooking world was delightful to watch since Jacques and Julia were so comfortable with each other, despite being in the process of making an extremely complex dessert which its exact French title I couldn’t remember if my life depended on it. What I do remember was this episode showcased Jacques introducing Julia to that intensely hard-core cooking tool of French dessert, otherwise known as the high powered blow torch, which, according to the Fire signed Frenchman had perfected the process of melting sugar and every other form of confection known to modern Man. The two gourmands presented to the audience various stages of the many layered process involved with making this complicated confectionary creation. The final phase of this drawn out process had been mostly pre-prepared where it required only a few last steps before it could be eaten.
Julia Child’s reaction to the fully prepared portion of the dessert permanently altered me.
The mutual adoration and fun filled friendship shared between Leo, Julia Child and Sagittarius, Jacques Pepin was palpable whenever these two Fire signed masters of French cuisine were in the same room together.
Jacques was adding a few final garnishes to his confectionary Pies de Resistance, be they blendings of nutmeg and cinnamon mixed with a hint of ginger or pear rinds dipped in honey and chocolate when he warned his host “OK Jooleeah, the (name of the scrumptious looking thing I can’t remember) is done, but I suggest you wait a minute or 2 to let it cool a bit more since it has just been, how you say, “blow-torched.”
To which Mrs. Child chidingly replied “Oh Jacques, you know me, that won’t happen.” As she threw her head back laughing, Julia then snatched a large tablespoon positioned on the platter in Jacques’ hands, scooped up a healthy portion of the freshly made dessert, placed it in her mouth while making two very slow chewing motions, and then froze, staring wide eyed to no one in particular. To everyone’s surprise and bewilderment, she then proceeded to lower her head.
I say that I knew nothing of Mrs. Child’s exact background but at this point in time I was familiar with parodies which poked fun at the great chef’s demeanor and manner of speech. As Julia stood there with her head lowered I immediately thought this is what Dan Ackroyd must have had in mind when he said in the flittiest of falsettos, “Oh gracious I must have cut a vein”, directly before spraying torrents of blood all over himself and the entire set of “Saturday Night Live”.
Julia stood for at least 10-15 seconds with her head lowered which in live TV time equates to approximately 15 or so minutes and by the look of Jacque’s face I surmised this was very unplanned and that it must have occurred as a result of the roof of her mouth and tongue receiving 2nd degree burns from the blistering, uncooled heat she was warned not to eat so quickly. I was convinced this was the case when her shoulders began to gently move up and down, the burning pain had clearly brought her to tears.
And there certainly were tears streaming down her face when she finally lifted her head, plenty of them. It still took the large lady a few moments to regain her composure before she spoke, during which I rose to my feet while slowly moving towards the TV to get a better look as I thought to myself “Is she really?”
And indeed she was.
“My apologies everyone, but this is simply so good.” she said with a voice still heavy with emotion.
The woman wept tears of passion because she enjoyed the food she had just eaten THAT much.
The raw beauty of Julia Child freely expressing herself with such total passion in reaction to the process of Creative Self Expression that she single handedly made America realize cooking itself could be – moved my soul to its very core.
*Brad Kronen’s book “Love in the Stars” published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Inc. is available for purchase at your local book seller or online at amazon.com at the link listed below.