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Julia Child has a bestseller, but her recipes may be tweaked by a health-conscious populace

August 24, 2009 |  1:42 pm

Mastering-the-art-of-french The New York Times ran an interesting story Sunday that is still topping its most e-mailed list. It's titled, "After 48 Years, Julia Child Has a Big Best Seller, Butter and All." It explores the Julia mania that has struck the country since the release of the film "Julie & Julia." Apparently, hordes of people are leaving theaters and running to bookstores to buy copies of Child's 48-year-old cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

The book will debut at No. 1 on the New York Times' Aug. 30 bestseller list in the advice and how-to category:

Amazing not just because the book is almost half a century old, costs $40 and contains 752 pages of labor-intensive and time-consuming recipes — the art of French cooking is indeed hard to master — but also for what those recipes contain.

In a decade when cookbooks promise 20-minute dinners that are light on calories, Ms. Child’s recipes feature instructions like “thin out with more spoonfuls of cream” (Veau Prince Orloff, or veal with onions and mushrooms, pages 355-7) or “sauté the bacon in the butter for several minutes” (Navets à la Champenoise, or turnip casserole, pages 488-9). And for a generation raised to believe that Jell-O should have marshmallows in it, there is plenty of aspic — the kind made with meat.

The story contains a particularly humorous anecdote from a shocked reader, Melissah Bruce-Weiner, who simply couldn't bring herself to make Child's boeuf bourguignon recipe as it was written. Instead of using pork fat, she used a can of cream of mushroom soup, a can of French onion soup and a can of red wine and called her creation “beef fauxguignon.”

“Yes, Julia Child rolled over in her grave when I opened the cream of mushroom soup, I’m pretty sure of that. But you know what? That’s our world," said Bruce-Weiner.

Maybe some saucy young writer will now come along and blog about modifying every single recipe in Child's seminal book. That might make for a good sequel -- even if for some Child fans it would seem more like a horror film.

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: Associated Press / Knopf

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