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Julia Child's Grand Central Oyster Stew, Vintage 1937By Vicki McClure Davidson
The cheerful, talented woman who revolutionized television cooking shows and took the fear out of French cooking for millions of American housewives wasn't always a cook.
Julia Child, born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in Pasadena, California in 1912, had an English degree and worked for several years as an advertising copywriter before going overseas to work for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Because she was so tall (6 feet, 2 inches / 187.96 cm), she had been declined for enlisting in the Women's Army Corps (WACs). While working for the OSS in Ceylon, she met Paul Child, and even though he was ten years older, they fell in love and married. It was Paul who introduced her to fine dining and she fell in love with French foods while they lived in France. She loved food and discovered she enjoyed teaching others how to cook.
With Paul's support, Julia learned to cook French cuisine by attending the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later studied privately with Max Bugnard and other master chefs. Some time later in Paris, she and two French friends, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, taught cooking to American women while gathering recipes and experimenting with French cooking.
The three of them collaborated on a revolutionary French cookbook, a huge 734-page book titled Mastering the Art of French Cooking, that became a runaway bestseller.
The success of the cookbook helped Julia to become the first female chef on television; she had numerous acclaimed cooking shows, namely The French Chef and Julia and Friends. She was the first chef to take the intimidation out of French cooking for her American audience, and was extremely popular because of her lighthearted, easy-to-follow approach to cooking.
Child won a Peabody award and three Emmys — she was a popular television icon for decades. Her Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook—a meticulous, first-of-its-kind work—was hailed by critics and remains a best seller, as have been a great many of her other cookbooks. Reruns of her cooking shows are still played on PBS and other cable stations. In 1996, Julia was ranked #46 on TV Guide's "50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time." Child died in 2004, just two days shy of her 92nd birthday. Her husband Paul had passed away in 1994.
This recipe is from Julia Child's 1982 cookbook, From Julia Child's Kitchen.
One of the in-group places to go for a supper or a snack in the New York of the 1930's was Grand Central Station's Oyster Bar. You sat up on a stool and peered over the counter into a series of steam bowls, where they made their famous oyster stew. It was so good I took notes on how the old chefs made it, and this is my version.
Julia Child's Grand Central Oyster Stew, Vintage 1937
- 3 or more T. butter
- 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 tsp. celery salt
- 6 to 8 large oysters, drained, and the juices reserved
- 1-1/2 c. light cream (or half milk and half heavy cream)
- Salt and white pepper
- Oyster crackers, or "common" crackers, or ship's biscuits
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter to bubbling in a saucepan, add the Worcestershire and celery salt, then the oysters.
Cook, swirling pan, for 2 minutes, or until the oysters' edges begin to curl. Add the oyster juices and cream, and bring just to the simmer.
Season to taste with salt and white pepper, and turn into a soup bowl. Float a spoonful of butter on top, sprinkle over it a good dash of paprika, and serve at once, accompanied by the crackers.
For each serving of 6 to 8 oysters, serves 1 to 2, increase proportions accordingly for more servings.
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Child, Julia, From Julia Child's Kitchen, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, NY, 1982.
Wikipedia.org, Julia Child (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_child).