“Learn how to cook: try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless – and above all, have fun.” – Julia Child
That’s my favorite advice from one of my favorite cooks in all of human (and zebraic) history! Even though I’m a zebra who is challenged by learning to cook with hooves, Julia Child makes me feel confident that I can do it – learning from my mistakes and having fun the whole time.
Who’s Julia Child, you ask? Well, she was a super-nice human who would have been 101 years old today. She didn’t even start cooking until she was a grown-up, but she became one of the most famous food lovers in the whole world, writing lots of cookbooks and starring in what some humans (and zebras) call the best food TV shows ever.
Well, that’s good enough for this zebra! So to celebrate Julia’s birthday, I’ve been busily reading her books – and am pleased to share my top 10 favorite kitchen lessons. I hope they’ll become some of your favorites, too!
1. “Once you have mastered a technique, you hardly need look at a recipe again.”
Well, that makes perfect sense to me! So I’ve been practicing everything from whipping egg whites and cream to kneading bread dough.
I love the way touching the food (with clean hooves, of course) makes me feel. It seems like magic to feel the billowy clouds of whipped cream – and the velvety dough that gets softer and more willing to help me as I knead it.
(Hooves can have their downside in the kitchen, but they’re GREAT for kneading!)
2. “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.
Zebras just aren’t fancy, so we’re glad we don’t have to pretend to be. Julia’s taught us that you just need good ingredients. That’s one of many reasons I spend as much time as I can at farmers’ markets learning about fun new vegetables – and the exciting stories behind them.
3. “When you serve fine, fresh green vegetables, you want them to show off their color.”
Yes – exactly! Even though I’m black-and-white myself, I agree: fresh green = super-good.
4. “The perfect vinaigrette is so easy to make that I see no reason whatsoever for bottled dressings.”
I first learned how to make a vinaigrette at a class with some cool kids in Brooklyn, New York. I was the only zebra there, but no one seemed to mind. We learned how to mix really good olive oil with different kinds of vinegars and seasonings. Then we tasted our vinaigrettes on lettuce, veggies and fruit. And you know what? Homemade salad dressing is AWESOME!
5. “It behooves us to choose eggs carefully and to treat them right.”
In addition to loving the word “behooves,” zebras think that you should choose EVERYTHING carefully and treat it right – from your eggs to the chickens who are generous enough to lay them for you. We’ve learned that when you’re kind and treat the world with respect, it treats you the same way!
6. “Small helpings, no seconds. A little bit of everything. No snacking. And have a good time.”
Julia said this lots of times – but I heard it from her favorite doctor, a very nice man I met on the beach on this island called Captiva. He told me that this was some of the best advice he’d ever heard about food – so he passed it on to me and to his two grandchildren Max & Lulu (who built me a beautiful sandcastle while their grandfather told his Julia story).
7. “It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”
Well, yes – or in my case, someone’s hooves. Julia taught me that you eat with your eyes as well as your mouth. When you take the time to make your food look beautiful, it tastes better than ever!
Of course, you don’t want to have your hooves (or fingers) touching a dish that so much you can’t even tell what it is anymore. Julia believed that, for the ultimate authenticity, the food should be respected and simplicity should reign. But when our hooves HAVE been all over something, zebras always admit it!
8. “…no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”
Well, when I read that wisdom (after a few kitchen disasters that I won’t mention right now), I started nodding my head like crazy and saying, “Well, I heard THAT!” So I’m going to practice and practice and practice until I’ve earned my kitchen stripes!
9. “I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a Valentine as you can give.”
I think so, too – on Valentine’s Day or any day. When you cook with love, you’re adding a magical ingredient that transforms any dish into something very special. So remember that when you’re cooking, okay? The secret ingredient is love!
10. “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”
Zebras are curious by nature – we’re always exploring and trying to figure out how and why things are the way they are. In fact, we’re tremendously interested in everything. So I was very happy to learn that, when it comes to cooking and life, all I need to do is be passionate and keep feeding my interests.
That sounds like tons of fun to me – and I hope it does to you, too!
In fact, I’m going to celebrate Julia’s birthday by having an adventure in the kitchen right NOW.