Friday Follies: Celebrating Julia Child and scrumptious Sachertorte

A Sachertorte from the Hotel Sacher in Vienna,
by David Monniaux, 2005, CC-BY-SA 2.0 

Did you miss National Sachertorte Day? It was December 5. If so, don’t worry – you can celebrate it anytime just by eating one of the most delicious and popular cakes in the world.

Franz Sacher was an Austrian chef who created his namesake confection almost by accident in 1832 for his employer, Prince Wenzel von Metternich. A trainee in the palace kitchen, Sacher had to step up and make a dessert for an important banquet when the regular cook suddenly became ill. I think most of us have enjoyed some version of this treat, but the original recipe is a chocolate sponge cake, layered with apricot jam and covered with dark chocolate icing.

If you’re still searching for a Christmas dessert, this could be it (and you can find a recipe here). 

Sacher was only a 16-year-old kitchen apprentice when he created his famous dessert. But he went on to become a master pastry chef, like the French chef and confectioner Antonin Carême, profiled in this post

And speaking of French chefs, I just have to mention Julia Child, the woman whose mission, as she described it, was to make French cuisine accessible to the average American home cook, who had to get by without any professional help in the kitchen.  

Julia in her Cambridge kitchen in 1978
Photo by Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0

Julia’s first television show, The French Chef, was a hit on PBS from 1963 to 1973. It followed on the heels of her immensely popular debut book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) written with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.

How that book was written, not to mention how easy (or not) it is to follow Julia's painstakingly detailed recipes, is addressed in the 2009 movie Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep as the inimitable Child and Amy Adams as her devoted fan. 

Also, if you ever make it to Washington D.C., you can visit the National Museum of American History and see a faithful recreation of Julia Child’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, kitchen.

What made The French Chef so endearing to viewers was that it was filmed live, with no time for editing. That means all of Julia’s accidental blunders, like dropping food on the floor or jamming a spatula into whirring electric beaters while mixing batter, are on full display as she explains her recipes with unfailing good humor. 

And the mistakes Julia makes in her kitchen are similar to the mistakes all cooks make but seldom admit. That’s what makes her so relatable.

As she once said: “If you’re alone in the kitchen, who’s going to see?” I don’t know about you, but those are words I live by.

I’ll end this edition of Friday Follies with Julia’s signature send-off:

Bon Appétit!

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