“Every woman should have a blowtorch” – Julia Child. I wholeheartedly agree. I finally own one and I finally made creme brulee just so I could use it. Not sure why it took me this long to finally do both.
A month or so ago I was scrolling through Twitter just seeing if there was anything interesting going on when I spied a tweet from an online friend about a Julia Child project called #LiveLikeJulia. I was intrigued so I decided to check it out. The link led me to the author Karen Karbo’s website, where she was inviting bloggers to live out one of the chapters of her new book for one week and in turn write about their experiences and thoughts. The book is called, ” Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life“.
There are ten chapters and each blogger that was interested in the project was to pick just one chapter to write about. They all sounded so awesome. In fact I can’t wait to read the entire book. I chose Chapter 10, ” Every Woman Should Have a Blow Torch” here is an excerpt from it:
” ‘Make every meal an occasion’ Sounds to like ‘Live each day as though it were your last’ – just plain overwrought. People do preach it, but does anyone practice? Not me! but to love your art as well as your audience does seem to make for a pretty good living day by pleasant day”
This chapter is about the last few years of Julia’s life, with her traveling to France for the last time,saying bye to her beloved husband Paul when he passed away and traveling the states for various birthday celebrations, never ever slowing down. I grew up in Santa Barbara, where Julia and Paul spent a lot of their time and where Julia lived the last years of her life. She actually lived in the same retirement community as my great aunt and uncle, just a little over a mile away from my childhood home. We used to see Julia all the time at the grocery store or at the beach when we walked our dog. My dad told me that she would always stop to say hi to us and pet our dog. She loved dogs and kids. I also took care of her once at a medical clinic I worked at in her last year of life. Even in her nineties she was as full of energy as she always was.
I remember my mom watching Julia Child’s cooking shows; she said Julia taught her how to cook. She said that Julia was hysterical, highly entertaining and made cooking seem so easy, even the most difficult French techniques. She would slop things on the counter and nonchalantly clean it up saying ” oh well no big deal” etc. Definitely not something you would see on a cooking show today.
Julia just loved life and lived it well. She was a non-stop worker but never looked at it as work. It was what she loved to do. Even towards the end of her life she didn’t know how to slow down. In this chapter ” she didn’t just have a blowtorch, she was a blowtorch.” Old age didn’t slow her down one bit. Nothing in life slowed her down. I read the chapter several times to think about how I was going to ” Live like Julia” and be the blowtorch. I first went out and bought a blowtorch. I stuck with a safer kitchen blowtorch rather than a benzomatic ( although I think that would be a better one to own, the kitchen one is a bit tame). I now want to cook all the things with my blowtorch.
The obvious thing to make was creme brulee. A classic dessert based on creme anglaise the base for many recipes from custards to ice cream. I make homemade ice cream fairly often and am familiar with creme anglaise so it is beyond me why I hadn’t made creme brulee before now. I can finally check this off my culinary bucket list. This was incredibly easy to make and the torching part was a little too much fun.
When people think of a kitchen blow torch, they think of creme brulee, however with Julia being Julia she would often improvise in the kitchen with it in other applications. This is one way how I live like Julia. If something doesn’t go exactly how it is supposed to, I improvise quickly enough and never skip a beat. Such as Julia here appearing on David Letterman. She sure could wield a blow torch like no one else:
I asked my husband how he sees me living like Julia and I had him read the chapter. He interpreted it as ” Julia made small things into occasions. Like you ( that would be me) do with our kid’s birthdays, anniversaries, end of summer or what not. You make sure these occasions are extra special for the person or event being honored. You thrive through thick and thin”. He thinks being a blow torch means thriving through whatever is thrown your way and never once wavering that its a tough situation. You make the best of it, and thrive. This is me to a T. I do so much at once. I multi-task multi tasking. One could say that would spread oneself too thin and always be frazzled and never accomplish anything well, but that is not the case with me. I am a blowtorch; I work hard, I am always improvising if the situation calls for it, pull it all together perfectly and I am awesome. I rarely slow down for anything, just like Julia. Old age wasn’t an option for her, and it wont be for me either. What is old anyway?
Even though Julia didn’t have any children of her own, her ways of living life are great lessons for any mom. Having two young kids myself I am constantly working, improvising, and teaching my kids to live life to the fullest. I have always worked hard for what I have, never handed anything on a silver platter. I teach my kids the same thing. Work hard for what you want. My older daughter thinks we should throw her a coming home party every day when she gets home from school. Every day is a grand occasion to her. My youngest thinks every day is her birthday and would love to eat birthday cake every day if I let her and if I made a cake every day. My two daughters will also be blowtorches, and they are already well on their way to becoming one. Julia found joy in everything she did, and lived each day as if it were her last. Reading this chapter has made me think more about stopping to smell the flowers more often, finding more joy in the day to day and being a blow torch. Always willing to keep learning and being better than I was the day before.
- 4 cups organic heavy cream
- 2 vanilla beans
- ½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. organic cane sugar
- 8 egg yolks
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- Extra granulated sugar for topping (1-2 Tbsp per ramekin)
- Set 8 – 6 ounce ramekins in a baking pan (or two). Have hot water ready to go for the water bath when it is time to bake the custards.
- In a medium sauce pan pour in all of the heavy cream. Split the vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds into the cream. Whisk to disperse the seeds. Add the beans and set the heat to medium. Heat until steaming, being careful not to let it boil. Once hot, cover and let steep for 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 325 deg F.
- In a separate bowl combine the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Mix well until thick and pale and when you lift the beater a ribbon of mixture pours back into the bowl. When the cream has steeped for 20 minutes, strain it into another bowl or large mixing cup. Rinse and reserve the vanilla beans for another use. Start to whisk the eggs slowly and add the warmed cream mixture a little at a time to temper the eggs, warming them up being careful not to scramble them. Keep the cream pouring in a thin stream as you whisk, being careful not to incorporate too many bubbles or cause the mixture to foam up. You can strain again at this point to make sure none of the egg scrambled during the tempering.
- Divide the mixture amongst the ramekins in the baking pans. Pour hot water into the pan, making sure it reaches to about halfway up the ramekins. The water needs to be hot to ensure even cooking
- Place pans carefully in the oven, making sure no water splashes into the custards. Bake for 30-35 minutes. The custards will set on top but still be a little loose, they will set fully once cooled. Remove from the oven and remove the ramekins from the water bath to a cooling rack to cool completely. Chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
- When ready to serve, bring the custards to room temperature. Spoon 1-2 tbsp granulated sugar over the top (you don’t want too much, but you don’t want too little either). Heat with a blowtorch until the sugar starts to bubble and darken, moving the flame around so no one spot gets too heated up and burns. Make one pass around each ramekin and then repeat to make sure all the sugar topping is caramelized. Serve immediately.
I really enjoyed this project and I am thrilled I found out about it. Karen Karbo is an award winning author of 14 novels including this one ” Julia Child Rules” and ” The Gospel According to Coco Chanel” ( I want to read that one as well). “Julia Child Rules” comes out October 1st and you can pre-purchase through Karen’s site HERE
I didn’t receive any compensation for this post, just a fun project to participate in.