You have free access to all the articles of the Observer for being our subscriber.
Chicken breasts, bacon, chopped onion, bay leaf, garlic, thyme, all washed down with two glasses of Pinot Noir. I should be worried about what I’m going to write next and I can only mentally repeat these ingredients while imagining the aroma that will fill my kitchen when I dedicate myself to reproducing the recipe for Coq Au Vin. And whose fault is it? From Julia Child and the new HBO Max series that tells how the American revolutionized television in the 60s, teaching recipes with French charm, good morningto North American housewives.
“Julia” is a biographical story, but it doesn’t follow the normal format you’d expect. Choose a period in Child’s life and focus only on that, but whoever has never heard of this woman is not very clear about her curriculum. And anyone outside the US who knows something probably owes it to the 2009 film with Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”.
Contextualizing then for those who enter this series in the dark, Julia Child took a course at the prestigious school Le Cordon Bleu, in Paris, while her husband was a diplomat in the French capital. edited later Mastering the Art of French Cookinga bestseller in the US, as Americans were then (and still are?) fromage and baguettes. The recipes were transferred to television with the program “The French Chef” and it is exactly this process that the series “Julia” scrutinizes.
[o trailer de “Julia”:]
What is fascinating about the narrative is realizing how, as they were being tested, techniques were invented that today seem so banal or insignificant on cooking shows. Child and his team had to figure out what trick they could use to fit an hour-long recipe into a 30-minute episode — ingredients already peeled, a pre-cooked tray taken out of the oven as if it had been magically completed between opening and closing the oven. door. They also discovered that having a mirror on the ceiling would give them the possibility to point the camera towards it and thus have a close-up and top-down view of whatever the chef was mixing, for example.
These delicious details create an immersive setting in the story, as if “Julia” were a kind of comfort food. The sets, the props, the colors, the kitchen gadgets from the 60s are so meticulous that they smell like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” by Amazon Prime Video. It’s not just a sensation, Daniel Goldfarb is creator of the first and producer of the second and here he very intelligently reproduces the revivalist details that captivate Maisel.
Creating “The French Chef” was not easy. First, there were no such programs on television. Second, who would be watching someone cook on the screen? Third, Julia Child was not exactly an attractive woman in the ordinary sense. Very tall, almost masculine, and with a voice so high that it would make Cristina Ferreira look like an apprentice. At a time when women’s job was to stay at home, it wasn’t behind the scenes of television that a mere cook would be taken seriously. Macho producers, mocking colleagues, you can’t say that Child won them all over the mouth, but almost.
The high-pitched timbre ends up pervading the ears like a melody — Sarah Lancashire is perfect in the role, albeit with less fun than Meryl Streep’s performance. The script doesn’t provide it either—and, slowly, Child is getting what he wants. She is always nice, good person, empathetic. Perhaps that’s why she has become a de facto icon of American television, with “The French Chef” broadcast for ten seasons.