You Say Tomato

It may seem like a small thing to some, but it isn’t.  I remember eating at a restaurant one August in Virginia, four or five years ago, and ordering a Cobb Salad.  Out came this huge bowl of lettuce, chicken, blue cheese, and wedges of rock-hard gassed tomatoes.  The worst part was that there was a man selling local tomatoes in the parking lot of the restaurant, maybe the best you can get anywhere, for less than the restaurant paid for nasty imitations.  It scarred me.

So, this past Wednesday I took my granddaughter and best friend, Ella, to get a Greek Salad at Mr. Gyro’s.  The salad was topped with six glorious slices of local tomatoes.  There’s hope.

More on Julia…

When I was chosen to be in Julia’s show “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs” (which I ain’t) I was asked to make two dishes. “Well” I said, “I’ll do velvet soft shells and….”.
Nope, I was told, no seafood. What?? I have to do softshells, if nothing else. Nope, seafood doesn’t sell cookbooks, and this is all about selling cookbooks. Besides, we have other chefs already doing seafood dishes. I told them if they’d let me do my softshells, I’d do any other dish they wanted. They wanted turkey. So I took a turkey leg, boned it and stuffed it with local shiitakes and Virginia ham. Really stuffed it. Then I wrapped it in caul fat, tied it up with butcher’s twine, and roasted it.
Then, with no warning, I was told that Julia’s new mission was to stop chefs from touching food after it has been cooked. How the hell am I supposed to untie it if I can’t touch it? So I pleaded with Julia to let me wash my hands, on camera, before touching the turkey leg. We’ll see, she said. Well, she let me do it (whew) and I made it through the taping.
Now, there’s one thing I’ve learned about doing TV.  If you want to get invited back, feed the crew. So I planned ahead and brought a huge bowl of tapioca pudding with me, which I set on the counter with a big spoon in it. Julia happens by and asks “Is that tapioca? I love tapioca”. With that, she grabbed the spoon, ate a big mouthful, and stuck the spoon back into the bowl of pudding. Ya gotta love her.

Julie & Julia & Jimmy

The movie’s out and it’s time for me to jump on the bandwagon.  I knew Julia for many years.  Close, you might say.  Very close.  Very, very close.

First: the movie is fine.  Meryl Streep is Julia Child, omg.  The essence of Julia is pretty much captured.  She was witty, sarcastic, unpredictable and awesome.

I got a call back in 1994 saying that Julia was putting together a new TV series and my name had come up.  We had met a few times before but she wanted a tape to look at.  I sent her one of a show I had done before and she chose me, saying I looked “so manly”.  (Remember, she was in her 80’s.)

The first time I met her, I was having lunch at Galileo in Washington, DC when a friend, Ann Brody passed by my table.  “Jimmy” she said “we’re having lunch with Julia Child in the back room.  Would you like to meet her?”  Would I ever!  Wondering how to break the ice, I recalled that Julia had gone to the Cordon Bleu in Paris and I was lucky enough to get a job there 25 years later.  The owner even arranged an apartment for me, nice, sweet old French lady that she was.  So I shook hands with Julia and said “I also was at the Cordon Bleu.  You must remember Mme. Brassart.”  At that, Julia looked at me and said, “I certainly do.  What a despicable woman!”  Not shy, she.  You’ll see the connection when you see the movie.  More later, gotta run.  But, believe it or not, they’re still showing re-runs of my shows with Julia on PBS.  Even though it has been 15 years, I haven’t changed a bit.