Last week I had posted the quotes and comparisons on my website's "About Mrs. Goodfellow" page, and have now moved them to this blog entry - I apologize for the length!
Over a century before Julia Child charmed us with her effervescent style of culinary instruction, scores of lucky Philadelphia-area girls benefitted from an equally knowledgeable, ethusiastic cooking teacher - Mrs. Elizabeth Goodfellow. To honor and celebrate Julia Child's 100th birthday on August 15, I will feature a different thought every day this week that highlights the similiarites between the two women's philosophies and how they both changed the way America views food and cooking.
Learning to cook
When learning about cooking and all its various techniques, it is essential to stay organized, focused and engaged, skills Julia Child and Mrs. Goodfellow perfected and passed on in their teaching. While Julia was a bit of a comedian ("a natural clown" her husband Paul Child lovingly called her), Mrs. Goodfellow was much more reserved - no big surprise with her Quaker 18th century upbringing. But both women were determined to share their culinary knowledge and felt strongly the best way to do this was through keen observation and hands-on training.
“...no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” ~ Julia Child, My Life in France
"It requires a head even to make cakes." ~ Mrs. Goodfellow
The art of cooking
Both Julia Child and Elizabeth Goodfellow had a thorough appreciation for cooking as an art form, viewing a completed recipe as not only wholesome and delicious, but also as a creative outlet and source of pride. Dough and pastry can be molded and shaped into beautiful, luscious desserts. Infusing flavors into a recipe is akin to painting a picture, with the finished dish a work of art. Julia got first-hand experience with this realization after pouring six
years of hard work and research into her culinary masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Many years prior, Mrs. Goodfellow was striving to drive this point home to the young girls who were her cooking school
“There are only four great arts: music, painting, sculpture, and ornamental pastry." ~ Julia Child, My Life in France.
"Young ladies learned the art of cooking at Mrs. Goodfellow's, 'it being the last touch of their education preparatory to entering society,'" ~ Famous old receipts used a hundred years and more in the kitchens of the North and the South (1908 cookbook compiled by Jacqueline Harrison Smith)
Julia Child’s love affair with food was sparked by the excitement of new flavor combinations and culinary experiences while living in France. She was so intrigued and interested that she enrolled as a cooking school student at the renowned Cordon Bleu. Her strong thirst for learning helped her persevere through the classes. She managed the language barrier and foreign techniques by working hard and immersing herself completely in the world of French cooking. How lucky for us that she stuck with it and ended up sharing the knowledge and skills she gained through her informative cookbooks and animated television programs!
Over 100 years before Julia another young woman followed a similar path … her name was Eliza Leslie. She was also a hard-working, attentive pupil who attended two courses of instruction at Mrs. Goodfellow’s Cooking school in Philadelphia and wrote down everything she learned in a little notebook. Miss Leslie ended up writing a total of nine cookbooks between 1827 and 1857 which grew into an amazing 72 different versions through reprints and updates. Through these cookbooks she became revered and respected for her advice regarding cooking, etiquette and domestic skills, not only sharing all she had learned from Mrs. Goodfellow, but also the knowledge she obtained from her own observations.
“….you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simply or luxurious. Then you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.” ~ Julia Child, Mastering
the Art of French Cooking
"The author was really a pupil of Mrs. Goodfellow's, and for double the usual term, and while there took notes of everything that was made, it being the desire of the liberal and honest instructress that her scholars should learn in reality." ~ Eliza Leslie,
Miss Leslie's new cookery book
For more musings on Julia and Eliza Leslie, see: http://www.beckyldiamond.com/beckys-blog.html
Focus on Freshness
Julia Child is often credited with ushering in the fresh food movement in the United States and re-introducing “home cooking” to American households. As Betty Fussell says in her book, Masters of American Cookery, “she makes food a living thing that shares inthe pleasure of her company.” Once when demonstrating the technique of egg poaching during a taping of one of her television shows, she explained in her sing-song voice, “Swing the shells WIDE open and DROP them in….if you happen to live near a hen, you can have fresh eggs like this instead of a nasty stale egg like THIS (holding up another egg in a saucer) where the white is relaxed and the yolk is practically naked.”
Mrs. Goodfellow also paid strict attention to quality and detail, using only pure, natural ingredients in her teaching and taking advantage of the season’s bounty. She stressed to her students that the key to a successful, tasty recipe is using superior, unadulterated ingredients. She would have no doubt been fascinated with Julia’s animated manner of instruction, and thrilled to know that this focus on freshness has come full circle today with the explosion of artisan cooking, farmer’s markets, and buying local.
“You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.” ~ Julia Child
“These buns were first introduced by Mrs. Goodfellow; and in her school were always excellently made, nothing being spared that was good, and the use of (baking) soda and other alkalis being unknown in the establishment.” ~ from Eliza Leslie’s recipe for Spanish Buns in Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book (1857)
When Julia Child’s television show hit the airways in the 1960s, many U.S. kitchens sported shiny modern appliances and all sorts of culinary gadgetry. This, combined with the characteristic American pioneer spirit made Julia Child quite confident that we could master cooking methods through self-education."Train yourself," she advised. "Where good materials are available, technique is all that matters, technique that can be taught and learned American style by doing it yourself."
Mrs. Goodfellow, on the other hand, needed to do some hand-holding when teaching her young students. Most were from wealthy, upper-class families and had zero cooking experience when they arrived in her school. Plus, she didn’t exactly have state-of-the-art cooking equipment at her disposal. Her stove was an open-fire with attached brick bake oven. She had no refrigerator and probably not a sink with running water. Oh, and no electric mixer or food processor either. Yet, she still turned out scores of successful graduates every year … these ladies went on to share the methods and recipes learned from Mrs. Goodfellow, perhaps helping friends and family become self-taught cooks.
"Once you have mastered a technique, you barely have to look at a recipe again.” ~ Julia Child, Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking
“Under (Mrs. Goodfellow’s) able training many of our exquisite yet practical ancestors gained a thorough knowledge of cooking – from soups and the `Staff of Life’ to plum-pudding and Queen cakes.” ~ From Colonial Receipt Book: Celebrated Old Receipts Used a Century Ago by Mrs. Goodfellow’s Cooking School, compiled and edited by Mrs. Frederick Sidney Giger (1907).