Six months after my cake decorating fiasco and with cupcake-decorating and cookie-decorating classes under my belt, I was ready to try again: this time with adult supervision. I signed up for a two-part, six-hour cake decorating class. I’m not sure why I ever thought I could casually decorate a fabulous anniversary cake. Like brain surgeons who decide they’ll write a novel “when they retire,” my goal was a bit of an insult to pastry chefs.
There are only four great arts: music, painting, sculpture, and ornamental pastry. –Julia Child
You have to do it and do it, until you get it right. –Julia Child
But is anyone ever completely ready for a new undertaking, especially in a profession like cooking, where there are at least a hundred ways to cook a potato? –Julia Child
[In class] I had to keep my ears open and make sure to ask questions, even if they were dumb questions. –Julia Child
…the more you learn the more you realize you don’t know. –Julia Child
The week between classes, I picked up Julia Child’s My Life in France, which immediately became one of my all-time favorite books. I adore it and can’t imagine the world without this book in it (she essentially dictated it to her great-nephew over the year before her death at age 92, so it came close to never existing). I don’t own Child’s cookbook (and probably never will), but this book is about so much more than cooking, and I think it’s indispensable for any artist, writer, or craftsperson: It’s about hard work and persistence and “the importance of practice, practice, practice,” as Julia says. Writing can be substituted for cooking in any of her quotes.
Her book is also about marriage, and falling in love with cats, and embracing life, and politics and tolerance, and female friendship, and travel, and booze. And feminism (like Erma Bombeck’s, her husband ended his career to support hers). She was a remarkable human being.
I had never taken anything so seriously in my life—husband and cat excepted—and I could hardly bear to be away from the kitchen. –Julia Child
At class the following Saturday, I was rewarded with…an actual cake to decorate!
Each recipe took hours of work…
…learning to take time—hours, even—and care… –Julia Child
One of the best lessons I absorbed…was how to do things simply. –Julia Child
(I beg to differ. There is nothing simple about the dishes she describes, especially the goose crushing. Let’s just say I skimmed those passages.)
I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine…. I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make…. Such admissions only draw attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings) and make the other person think, “Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal!” Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed–eh bien, tant pis!… Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. –Julia Child
I came to understand that learning how to fix one’s mistakes, or live with them, was an important part of becoming a cook. –Julia Child
I wanted to be pushed hard and further. There was so much more to learn! –Julia Child
The more I learned the more I realized how very much one has to know before one is in-the-know at all. –Julia Child
“One thing that separates us Senior Citizens from the Juniors is learning how to suffer,” Paul noted. “It’s a skill, just like learning to write.” – Julia Child
Oh, sweetie, how did you get frosting on your face? –my teacher
Then I went home and tried it myself, starting with the cake.
Eh bien, tant pis!
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All quotations are from My Life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme.
The pastry decorating classes are taught by Chef Jeanine Garcia at North Seattle College’s Continuing Education Program.
Citizen Kane Rosebud photo: pyxurz.blogspot.com
All other photos by Jennifer D. Munro.