Julia Child on Creating Recipes

I can't tell you how many times I've made up an original recipe and a day or two after I create it, I'll see what I just made up myself in magazine. This happened with the edamame puree and with the sauteed tomatoes I made for the grilled veal. It has happened so many times. Anyone would think I saw the magazine first and then made the recipe up. But it was the reverse: I had an idea and then someone else had the same idea.

This happened with my friend, Tracey, who thought it would be so cute to make place-card napkin holders out of the gingerbread leaves my mom was making at the bakery. The next day she was on Williams-Sonoma's website and they had placecard cookie napkin holders. Great minds just think alike.

The reverse is also true: sometimes magazines, cooking shows, restaurants, etc. inspire me to make a new dish and they are the first spark for the idea or inspiration. Other times I'm inspired alone just from seeing a raw ingredient or having some random things that happened to be at my kitchen counter at the same time or sometimes I just have an idea.

My friend Jennifer said "I really think recipes are in the air and if we are 'tuned in' we can hear them...just like music and a good story." Well, that is certainly true for me with recipes, they are just floating out there and come to me all the time. Sometimes at 2:00 in the morning, othertimes when I'm in the shower and often when I'm cooking. The answer is just "there." And I suppose it comes so easily because of knowledge of techniques and flavors and what goes together. And while composing recipes is so easy and almost effortless to me, I can't play music by ear at all. I took piano lessons for years and even taught piano for 3 years when we were in the Army. I can learn any song if you give me the notes. I can even memorize it. But I can't play by ear at all and I'm so envious of people who compose music and songs because I don't have that talent at all.

I want to include this 1983 article by Julia Child on Creating Recipes. She echos so many of my thoughts and feelings. This article accompanied a recipe for Cranberry Chutney so I'll include that recipe as well.

Julia Child, November 13, 1983, Parade Magazine

One of the great pleasures of cooking is creating original recipes. One feels so clever, and the more one has cooked, the more one's background contributes to creativity. Of course, it's creation in the sense of assembling known ingredients and ideas in an original form.

An example is the cranberry chutney in this section. We (our cooking team) had been talking about chutneys for another menu, and so chutney was on our minds when we talked of cranberries for Thanksgiving. What new form might we serve them in? Why not cranberry chutney? None of us had ever heard of such a thing, but we gave it a try, did several version, voted for the one here and were delighted with our ingenuity. The very next day, one of us was browsing through a cookbook, and there was our cranberry chutney--not quite word for word, but very near it. We were amazed, incredulous.

For our crepe article that appeared last April, we wanted a souffle in a crepe. We tried out serveral versions and created a system using a pastry-cream base with egg whites beaten into a meringue. It worked beautifully, and we were extremely pleased and proud of ourselves. After it was all photographed and written, in came Chef Jean-Claude from Dallas to do a gala dessert for our TV series, Dinner at Julia's. Yes! he made an orange souffleed crepe surrounded by strawberry sauce; it was almost exactly the same formula as ours--a word or ingredient was changed here and there, but it was an almost identical recipe. How could that be, when we ourselves had invented the system?

I have no explnation for this spontaneous phenomenon. It is mental telepathy? It is that recipes and ideas float about in the stratosphere, and our antennae pick them up? It does happen--to me anyway--often enough that it cannot be coincidence alone.

Makes about 1 quart

You can make chutney out of almost anything, it seems--mangoes, peaches, apricots--and it all has a sweet-and-sour taste.

For about 1 quart of cranberry chutney, simmer 1 cup of sliced onions for 30 minutes in a 3-quart saucepan with 1 cups of water, 3/4 cups of dark brown sugar and 1/2 cups of white sugar. Then stir in 3/4 cups of cider vinegar, 2 tart apples (peeled, seeded and diced) 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger, 1/2 teaspoon each of mace and curry powder and the grated rinds of 2 oranges. Simmer 1/2 hour longer, then stir in 1 pound (1 quart) of cranberries (washed and picked over,) 1/2 cup of currants (small black raisins) and the strained juice of the 2 oranges. Boil slowly for about 10 minutes, or until the cranberries burst. Correct seasoning, adding sugar if too sour--but it should not be sweet.

Maili's Notes: I make chutney all the time. Kumquat chutney, peach chutney, tomato chutney. I love the combination of sweet and sour. I don't put curry powder in my cranberry chutney. the other key technique that I do differently than Julia is that I saute my onions in olive oil before I add the water or sugar. I get them caramelized with a pinch of kosher salt a bit of water when needed. Then when they are cooked I start adding the other ingredients.


Anonymous said…
Thanks so much for having this old recipe. I've been making it for all these years and last night I went to find it and it was gone. My old splattered magazine clipping had just disappeared. I searched on the web and none of the recipes from Julia Child were the same. But there in your site was an image of the original clipping. What a relief! I've never posted a comment in my life but I'm so happy to have this I just had to give it a try! Happy Thanksgiving.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for printing this recipe. My old original copy is falling apart. i make it every Thanksgiving and haven't been able to find it this week so I really appreciate it!
Anonymous said…
I have made this marvelous recipe of Julia's since it was first published - one, because I loved making any recipe dear Julia provided, and two, because my mother and all others who attended my Thanksgiving fetes demanded it! I hope you are having a glorious retreat among the clouds and I know I will feel you smiling down upon me and my family, especially at Thanksgiving. We miss you and thank you for all the wonderful years you were with us.
Unknown said…
This was outstanding....does anyone know if this would be safe to can in jars using water bath method? Any idea how long you would process it?
Anonymous said…
I also love this chutney. A Double batch is made each Thanksgiving since 1983 when first published. I paniced one year when I could not find the copy. I spent hours searching in the public library microfiches.
Anonymous said…
The Julia Child cookbook that I found this recipe in is called "The Way To Cook"

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