Bon Appétit! (Encouragement for Creators)

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Innovative people have always had their fair share of critics: “It’ll NEVER work!”; “It’ll never FLY!”; “It’ll never FLOAT!”; “It’ll never stay SUBMERGED!” Anyone who knows their history, has learned to NEVER say “Never”! Still, many of us, as creators, are on the receiving end of the “No can do” attitudes and criticisms of certain agents, editors, publishers, financiers, and other assorted people who choose to see all the obstacles to any given project or goal. For your encouragement, we’ll now share the story of a creator and her naysayers. And since we’ve been discussing cookbooks in our Angel in the Kitchen series, we’ve chosen as our subject, the late Julia Child, who wrote one of the most influential cookbooks of the 20th Century.

Julia Child was born in Pasadena, California, on August 15, 1912. Although she’s Internationally recognized as a multiple award-winning chef, author and television personality — as well as THE person who introduced and popularized French cooking in America — she attained none of this notoriety until she’d reached the ripe age of 51. Late bloomer? Some things are worth waiting for.

Many of us remember Julia Child as the elderly and unassuming French chef with the unusual voice that seemed to warble. It’s interesting to learn that as a teenager, the six-foot, two-inch-tall Julia participated in sports while attending Smith College, and was an avid basketball player. She graduated from Smith in 1934 with a BA in English. Her career in cooking was still decades away. Long before she was “The French Chef,” she moved to New York City and worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of a firm that marketed upscale home furnishings. She returned to California
in 1937 and spent the next four years writing for local publications.

During World War II, Child tried to enlist, in both the WACs (Women’s Army Corp) and the U.S. Navy’s WAVES, but was rejected for being “too tall”! So, Child joined the famed OSS (Office of Strategic Services) and worked her way up from typist, to a top-secret researcher. While working in the Secret Intelligence division, Child had a variety of jobs that took her to Washington, D.C., Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and eventually to China. But her most interesting assignment may have been as the assistant to a research team developing shark repellent! The foul-tasting stuff was needed to keep sharks from exploding mines intended for German U-boats. So how in the world did Julia Child end up as the last word on French cuisine?

While in Ceylon, she met fellow OSS employee and New Jersey native Paul Cushing Child. The two were married in 1946, and moved to Paris, two years later, when Paul was given an assignment there by the US State Department. Julia’s hubby was an artist, a poet, and a gourmet, and he introduced her to fine French cuisine — which she repeatedly described as a culinary revelation: “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.”

While in Paris, Julia attended the famous cooking school Le Cordon Bleu, and later studied with several master chefs. She also met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, two French women who were trying to write a French cookbook for American readers. They quickly convinced Julia “the English major” to collaborate with them. That was around 1951, and the three cookbook creators spent the next decade researching and repeatedly testing recipes. Child translated the French into English, and worked to make the recipes detailed and interesting to American cooks. Finally, their book was finished. All they needed to do was find a New York publisher. Piece of cake?

The three authors were told repeatedly that their 726-page manuscript was “too long”! Other objections included: “No one’s interested in preparing gourmet food”; “No one’s buying cookbooks these days”; “If someone wants a recipe, they’ll just tear it out of a magazine”! When a door finally opened, and Houghton-Mifflin signed them to a contract, the editors then rejected the manuscript because it seemed too much like an encyclopedia.

Alfred A. Knopf Company ultimately published Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961. It was a critically-acclaimed bestseller, and it’s still in print to this day. More books followed, as well as a long-running television show. And would you believe, the kitchen set, where for years Julia Child cooked up special dishes for her legions of viewers, is now permanently exhibited in the Smithsonian.

So, all her naysayers had to eat crow — and at the end of each episode of The French Chef, Julia would say, “Bon appétit!”

“And the LORD answered me: Write the vision; make it plain…. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; …If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come.” (Habakkuk 2:2-3 ESV)

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You Got to Be Ready, Jack! (A Diet for Dreamers)

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Time and tide wait for no one.” (St. Marher, 1225)

Imagine: It’s Saturday and a good friend will be arriving at 6 p.m. to pick you up for a concert. You’ve wanted to hear this band play for a long time, and now’s your big chance! While you’re waiting for the doorbell to ring, you lie on the sofa in your pajamas and watch a few hours of reality TV. Your friend knocks at the door. You answer it. He takes one look at you and shakes his head in disbelief, because YOU’RE NOT READY. He’s on a tight schedule, so he leaves without you. You just missed a golden opportunity. It’s gone. Kaput. Finito. Sayonara.

What were you thinking? Were you even thinking? You shrug, slump back on the couch and continue to watch the telly. Meanwhile, you’re kicking yourself for not being ready, an oversight that has cost you an opportunity to fulfill your dream of hearing that new band.

Kirk and Spock discover “The Trouble with Tribbles”: these cute little furballs multiply like crazy!

Every big dream or goal works pretty much like the scenario we just imagined. When an opportunity comes along to move a step closer to fulfilling your own dreams, you need to be ready. When David Gerrold was growing up he knew he wanted to be a science fiction writer. In his book, The Trouble with Tribbles, he explains in the first chapter, “Getting Ready for Opportunity’s Knock,”  how he got an opportunity to write a script for a major television SF drama. It was Gerrold’s FIRST script ever and, once filmed and telecast, it proved to be one of the most popular episodes of the original Star Trek. Gerrold had made writing a successful script look easy, but he explains that it didn’t just happen:

“…I spent a lifetime training to be a Star Trek writer — even before I knew there was going to be a Star Trek… But even if it hadn’t been Star Trek, it would have been something (else). That was the direction I was moving in. And Star Trek was the opportunity….”

Gerrold also points out that “…I was ready for the opportunity when it did occur. The G*O*L*D*E*N  O*P*P*O*R*T*U*N*I*T*Y isn’t worth a damn thing unless you’re prepared to meet it. …Once you make a decision to do something or to be something, start preparing for it immediately.

Like Gerrold, we may not know when or where our big break might come, but while we’re waiting for it, we need to be learning, studying, training, practicing, and watching for it; taking the right steps, or at least trying to take steps, down the path to our goals. Don’t wait till someone’s ringing the doorbell to put your pants on. By then, it may be too late to get dressed. The delivery man has a schedule to keep, and he’ll probably leave long before you can get to the door. If this happens to you, let’s just hope he leaves your “dream delivery” on the front step.

“I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close.” (Revelation 3:8 NLT)

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