Monday, January 25, 2010

Julia Child's Reaction to Failure

Failure is a harsh word. It is a four-letter word with a three-letter appendage. I don't like to use it, and I don't like to experience it, though I have. Noble and stoic reactions to failure are, I suppose, something that should be admired. But my deepest admiration goes to Julia Child, and the way she describes her reaction to not being able to answer some written questions on her final exam at the Cordon Bleu. The scene is touched upon in Julie and Julia, but only Julia Child's own words will do for me. This is an excerpt from My Life in France.
My disgruntlement was supreme, my amour-propre enraged, my bile overboiling. Worst of all, it was my own fault!

I despaired that the school would ever deign to grant me a certificate. Me, who could pluck, flame, empty, and cut up a whole chicken in twelve minutes flat! Me, who could stuff a sole with forcemeat of weakfish and serve it with a sauce au vin blanc such as Madame Brassart could never hope to taste the perfection of! Me, the Supreme Mistress of mayonnaise, hollandaise, cassoulets, charcroutes, blanquettes de veau, pommes de terre Anna, souflé grand Marnier, fonds d'artichauts, oignons glacés, mousse de faisan en gelée, ballottines, galantines, terrines, pâtés . . . Me, alas!

Later that afternoon, I slipped down to the Cordon Bleu's basement kitchen by myself. I opened the school's booklet, found the recipes from the examination--oeufs mollets with sauce béarnaise, côtelettes de veau en surprise, and crème renversée au caramel--and whipped them all up in a cold, clean fury. Then I ate them.

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