By Curt Yeomans
Before the big "BAM!" there was Julia.
Emeril Lagasse, Paula Deen and Alton Brown are all modern-day celebrity chefs, but it was Julia Child who was the original "Iron Chef." Child, who died in 2004 at the age of 91, was the host of the television series "The French Chef" during the 1960s. She was also the author of cookbooks, including "The Way to Cook," and "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
The recently released film "Julie & Julia" is about Child and her cooking skills, and one woman's attempt to cook her way through one of Child's books. Now, the Forest Park branch of the Clayton County Library System has a display devoted to Child's work in the kitchen. The display includes cookbooks by Child, cooking utensils and faux food. The items will be on display through the end of the month.
"I went to see the movie, and I just thought this would be something that people might be interested in," said Lydia Bigard, the branch's managing librarian. She provided the copies of Child's cookbooks, from her personal collection, for the display. "She was the premier chef of her time," Bigard said.
Bigard said there has been a renewed interest in Child's cooking since the movie was released. "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" recently reached the No. 1 spot on The New York Times Best Sellers List in the "hardcover advice" category. All of the Forest Park library branch's copies of Child's cookbooks are currently checked out by patrons, Bigard said.
The display was arranged by Library Assistant Stephen Hart and went on public viewing last week. Among the items Hart came up with for the display was a cut-out of Child. Hart made the cut-out by enlarging a picture of the chef that he found on the Internet, pasting it onto foam board, and then cutting it out.
Food items included in the display include a faux chocolate torte, made from cardboard and matte board with a flour-and-water mix painted on top to imitate white frosting. There are nine red balls, made out of modeling clay, which are designed to look like cherries on top of the cake.
"I was aiming for a torte because I remember watching her show years ago, and she was making a chocolate torte," Hart said.
Hart employed similar measures to make a triangle of cheese. He also found a paper cut-out pattern for a 3-dimensional chicken breast, which is also in the display. Other items in the display include fake vegetables and eggs, a whisk, a wooden spoon, a spice bottle, two pepper mills and an empty wine bottle.
"I was thinking of some of the influences France had on her," Hart said.
Forest Park resident, Starlett Anderson, who brought her sons Cameron and Ontario Bailey to the library on Thursday to use a computer, said she thought it was a good idea to put up a display on Child's life to further educate people about what she did. "I think it's good just because people don't always have the means to go to the movies," Anderson said.
Anderson said she remembers watching "The French Chef" as a child with her grandmother, and often making a lemon pound cake using a recipe they got from Child's show.
"I still make it all the time," Anderson said. "It's my favorite recipe, actually."