Julia Child once said, “The more you know, the more you can create. There’s no end to imagination in the kitchen.” Later, Morgan Freeman said, “She’s right, you know.” He was not responding to her, but that doesn’t make his answer any less valid. The point is we need knowledge. Whether you are making crepes, art or public policy, the only way to do it well is with knowledge and, hopefully, a bit of wisdom. So, in the spirit of learning more, please, join me now as we stand and make the Upside-Down Martini.
I am not a big fan of martinis, but I had a request for one this week and I am always looking for a nice variation, hoping to find one that does it for me. This was Julia Child’s favorite drink and she has been on my mind quite a bit recently. Probably, because I have been craving a very special dish, her wonderful Coq Au Vin. These cooler, overcast, autumn days always make me think of this hearty red wine and chicken staple of French cooking. If you can find the original episode. watch it and make this dish. The recipe is easy to track down, but the episodes are trickier, though they are all available through NPT’s Passport for those who support their local public television station. Her one of a kind presentation and simple approach to complicated dishes are a beauty to behold and a true rarity in the time before “celebrity chefs” were a thing. This “reverse martini” was her drink of choice before dinner, so let’s give it a shot.
Grab your mixing pitcher and pop in 3 ounces of dry vermouth, she preferred Noilly-Prat and so do I. The only other ingredient is one ounce of gin, I chose New Amsterdam, this time. Add ice and stir well to the beat of the “Spy Hunter Theme” by Saliva. Of course, it is just a metal version of “Peter Gunn“, but what are you going to do? When it is good and cold, I mean icy, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a couple of bleu cheese stuffed olives on a cocktail pick.
I wanted to love this one, I really did, but it just isn’t doing it for me. I get it and it is not bad, but at the end of the day, like so many martinis it just gin and vermouth and not all that interesting. Conceptually, I get it, the simplicity, the purity of the drink, and I like gin, but it just doesn’t get me there. It’s ok, there are a lot of things in life I don’t get or like and that is ok.
So, I don’t care for her drink, but I loved her cooking and her story. She was synonymous with french cooking and I always assumed she was English, but she was actually from California. Everyone knows that she rose to prominence after her book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was published. In fact, her cooking show was a direct result of the television interviews promoting the book. Audiences loved her theatrical style and WGBH took a chance on her. The show was wildly successful and the rest is history. More interesting, to me though, is how she ended up in in France. After World War II her husband, Paul, took a post in France with the State Department, which of course led to her exposure to French cuisine and eventually cooking. That is all wonderful, but before that she had to meet her husband, which she did during World War II working with him at the Office of Strategic Services. That’s right, they worked at the OSS, the precursor of the CIA. A real life “spy couple” or “spy support couple” if you want to split hairs. She held a number of interesting positions, including creating a shark repellent, which is still in use today, used to keep them from setting off undersea mines. Hers is a fascinating story, you should take the time to learn more about her. That’s what she would do, she was a strong believer in lifelong learning, as she said, it is important to “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” So, there you go, America’s beloved television chef worked for the spy service and cooked up shark repellent before she ever made her first beef Bourgogne and that’s pretty cool. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.