Recently I was looking for something to watch as I ate lunch. I cruised over to PBS’s video archive for something entertaining. (There’s a lot of cool stuff in the archive — full episodes of “Frontline” and “Nova” in high definition = awesome.)

I came across a collection of Julia Child videos. JC is very much in the zeitgeist these days; I finished “Julie & Julia” on vacation. I am, however, not terribly familiar with her TV shows.

My video of choice was “The French Chef” cooks La Tarte Tatin (an upside-down apple tart) from 1971. Oh man, is she a delight to watch! She clearly knows what she’s doing, but explaining things as she goes thing throws Julia for a loop — as it would most good home cooks, I suspect. (Having everything laid out in advance? Little stations for each step? Lofty goals, I say.)

Today’s cooking shows and celebrity chefs (and their armies of prep chefs and food stylists) are a far cry from Julia’s nearly guerrilla approach to cooking. Food entertainment has come a long way.

I’m trying something new here at Sie macht: I’m going to live blog the video (except it’s not really live because it’s from 1971). I could not figure out how to embed the video into my blog, so please click here for a link to the show. It’s a fine way to spend 28 minutes and 40 seconds. In case you can’t/don’t watch the show, here are screen captures of its choicest moment. (But really, please just watch the video.)

This post is a preface to me making my own tarte tatin. (Quite the windup, eh?) You’ll be an expert by the time I post my experience; I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!

Without further ado: evh blogs Julia Child’s La Tarte Tatin. (And a hush falls over the crowd.)

26:55 What is she smiling at?

26:06 JC says, “Stir them around with a purple spoon, and they’ll keep their color.” Has to be purple, eh? He he.

25:10 I’m worried about that canister of tools. She’s going to knock it over.

24:56 There goes the canister! Already it seems as though she barely has control over her demonstration — and I like it. Keep cooking on the edge, JC!

23:27 “I used to think it was really immoral to do anything by machine,” she says. Now, “I’m for the machine.” And she brandishes a hand mixer. Working smarter, not harder. I love me some kitchen gadgets.

22:53 There you go. She moves the canister.

22:41 Julia talks about her stand mixer and its attachments. Love that green!

22:33 When you make pastry, she says to make a bunch of it because it’s so easy to make. I agree. My standard 3-2-1 crust makes two pie shells, and I usually only use one at a time. Then, next time I want a crust, I just have to thaw the spare. Julia also warns against “hot-hand syndrome.” It will make your pastry unmanageable. Havta work fast!

21:13 Here’s what the pastry should look like.

20:53 She’s still avoiding the canister, friends.

19:58 That’s a very soft pastry.

19:55 I love how she says gluten. Gl-ooooooo-ten.

19:31 JC vs. plastic wrap! I do this ALL THE TIME.

19:06 “Gluten in the flour has to become activated and excited!” Her enthusiasm is contagious. The hand gestures! She recommends at least a two-hour rest. (Truthfully, I sometimes roll with mine after 30 minutes. That’s why she’s JC and I’m evh, ha.)

18:21 She explains how to quadruple the recipe, but stumbles in an adorable way over the math. (I also do this ALL THE TIME.)

17:13 “This is not a recipe for when you’re planning to diet.” Oh yeah? How so, JC?

16:59 HOLY AMERICA’S DAIRYLAND. That’s a lot of butter.

16:49 She puts away what’s left of the butter. Maybe there’s ONE TABLESPOON left?
16:41 JC adds one-third inch sugar to the cast iron pan. I can’t get over what that pan looks like.

16:17 JC says this recipe has become rather chic at certain restaurants, but she prefers it straightforward and not all “gussied up.” “I think one can become too fancy,” she says, “and then you’ve lost the taste of the original.” Fancy is good, but tasty is better. And unpretentious food that’s made with joy tastes best (so says I).

14:29 Oh, how lovely!

14:09 More butter! This time, it’s melted. And there’s more sugar, too. (Forget your diet, indeed.)

14:03 She can’t find the sugar. We’re verging on chaos, people!

13:03 She beats the dough with aplomb. JC explains that her tool is not an actual rolling pin, but a broom handle cut down by her husband. (MVH would definitely do something like that for me. So sweet.) Julia says her pin is “certainly much better than those nutty little rolling pins” she saw at a kitchen store. Ha!

11:57 She moves the dough with ease by wrapping it around the pin. Good trick!

10:52 This is where the swap between tartes gets hairy, and I love how she handles this. “I’m not sure that has completely caramelized, but I’m going to unmold it anyway,” she says about the completed tarte. If it doesn’t work, she is going to show us how to fix it. You never see mistakes in cooking shows today. This incident is enormously instructive and makes Julia even easier to relate to.

10:38 She inverts the cast iron pan on to a plate, and apple slices squirt out! “That unmolded very badly,” she says. I’m most worried about this part when I make my own tarte tatin. My pan is really heavy, and I don’t think I’ll be able to invert it with one hand.

10:35 Yikes. That tarte needs help. She says she should have been using Cortlands, but thinks the apples may have been mismarked. My theory: sabotage! We know that JC was a spy during World War II. The apple “mix-up” is revenge! Look on the bright side: you can impress guests with your skills of recovery. Take that, saboteurs!

9:44 Put some powdered sugar on the tarte, and the caramelize it under the broiler. “And you aren’t going to know that anything wrong has happened,” she says.

9:21 She covers sides of the platter with foil to protect it from the broiler. Brilliant. Must remember this.

7:28 Julia’s face lights up as she talks about her favorite French cremerie. She going to take us to the market and her favorite dairy shop in France. It’s a video field trip!

5:45 JC ducks into her favorite cremerie.

5:24 Julia and the shopkeeper show off French cream, or creme fraiche. We get to hear some of JC’s French skills. In a way, she almost seems more natural speaking French than English. Highly entertaining.

4:47 Julia shares the recipe for creme fraiche. My favorite part of this exercise is the pint of heavy cream that says “For your health” on the carton. The process is pretty much the same as making yogurt.

2:37 This is how tarte tatin should look. Unfortunately, it’s kind of purple. Too bad the color TV couldn’t capture the goldenness of the tarte.

2:27 “I’m quite sure that these were not Cortland apples.”

2:01 I’m pretty sure she’s going to drop one of the tartes. This looks VERY precarious.
1:50 She enters the most brightly lit dining room in the world. I think she’s going to interrogate whoever she suspects switched her apples.


1:40 She’s trying both tartes! I love this idea.


1:17 “Loooooovely creme fraiche…” Whoa, Jules. You want to be alone?

1:00 She encourages making two tartes, one with firm apples, one with mushy apples. Would be very educational, I think. She also recommends drinking Vouvray with the tarte.

See you soon with my own La Tarte Tatin. Au revoir!