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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Julia’s Kitchen Rumors

Smack in the middle of a week during which TV Land will attempt to debunk “some of pop culture’s darkest mysteries,” we will learn whether Julia Child really did drop a chicken in the middle of filming her show and proceed with cooking it.

Snopes—a site that is exceedingly useful for those friends of yours who constantly forward around those urban-legend email scares—has already decided that La Child never did any such thing.

No one can place an accurate date on when the tale of a dropped viand began dogging Julia Child, but we do know it was being reported as a persistent rumor back in 1989. Its spread has no doubt been helped along by articles appearing in respected publications that passed some version of it along as fact.

Citing a Los Angeles Times piece on Julia Child’s biography, Appetite for Life, Snopes reproduces this quote from the review:

In one of her best-known television episodes, she flipped a potato pancake in the air and, instead of landing in the skillet, it plopped on the table. Julia simply looked straight into the camera and said, ‘You just scoop it back into the pan. Remember, you are alone in the kitchen and nobody can see you.’

Snopes adds, “Child admitted time and again to the potato pancake incident but always firmly maintained she never dropped a chicken, duck, or whatever else the rumor has ascribed to her.”

With that mystery solved, I think I’ll still tune in to see if Gilligan’s Island really was a metaphor for hell or if Mama Cass did die by choking on a ham sandwich.

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Faking It

You’d think that after helping to direct a few Williams-Sonoma cookbook shoots, I’d be up on all the food fake-outs. Actually, we tried really hard not to pull from the same bag of tricks some food stylists and photographers trot out on a regular basis, so I never watched a side of beef get shined up with spray-on lacquer or set up a bowl of Cheerios with Crisco masquerading as milk.

That said, I get rather discouraged when my culinary creations come out looking not so much like porn as they do a really bad movie on Skinemax. However, Gael over at Pop Culture Junk Mail alerted me to this entertaining piece by Carin Moonin in the Willamette Week.

Moonin writes:

But we have a strange relationship, cookbooks and I. They lure me with shiny pages, happy lists and lush photographs. Deviled eggs are perkily piped. Lamb gleams, wantonly, under a balsamic reduction. Lasagna bubbles off the page.

But cookbooks, tragically, lead me to a place I can’t go. I’m a writer, not an artist. I’ve taken knife-skills classes, sushi-rolling tutorials and cake-decorating seminars, and I’m still at the same level of artistic aptitude as when I made macaroni necklaces. While the stuff I make tastes good, it never, ever, looks like the picture.

She then proceeds to make a handful of recipes in an attempt to re-create their accompanying tempting images in the cookbooks, and has Carol Ladd and Ellen Ladd, two food stylists, critique her results with such comments as, “Seriously? Are you actually trying to replicate the plate as it’s composed in the book?” and “Sometimes a perfect drip—or the sensation of gooey-ness that you get from pulling the cupcake apart—can be achieved with candle wax, strategically placed and covered with the actual foodstuff …”

I now feel so much better about all my holiday entertaining. If anyone comments on my presentation, I’m going to ask them if they’d rather eat my candles.