I’ve recently been reading a biography of Julia Child, the irrepressible cook, cookbook author, and public television star. Although I certainly knew of the celebrity and a bit of her legacy, I really knew nothing about her life. And I never thought reading a biography would get me thinking about learning and teaching.
Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it. ~ Julia Child
On the value of experimentation
Apparently, Julia was a real perfectionist who took her role as teacher and mentor to millions of American cooks very seriously. Crafting her cookbooks took years because every recipe was studied, tested, and validated with American cooks in mind. Julia experimented with recipes with the same rigor as any scientist, carefully changing variables and recording results.
Along the way, she learned how to be a cook and not just how to put together a recipe – she was able to be more spontaneous and flexible because the basics were second nature. Even still, she ensured her recipes were explicit and clear so that home cooks could be assured of the results regardless of their experience around a kitchen.
Being a strong advocate for scholarly practice, I related to Julia’s penchant for experimentation. It’s a wonder we don’t do more of it in our everyday practice in learning and development. We’re not always very good at regularly taking notes about what’s working and what isn’t, and tenaciously digging until we understand the reasons why.
But I can turn my classes and programs into proving grounds and continuously monitor my practices and outcomes. My experiments aren’t able to be repeated many times a day as Julia often did to work out tricky combinations or cooking instructions, but over the course of a term, or several projects, I’m sure that careful attention could yield interesting insights. And Julia also had a collaborator, providing the example that pooling ideas with other L&D professionals might be a way to get to the right answers more quickly.
If you’re in a good profession, it’s hard to get bored, because you’re never finished—there will always be work you haven’t yet done. ~ Julia Child
On the benefits of practice
On her TV show and in personal appearances, Julia earned her audience by being personable and real, allowing them to see mistakes and demonstrating a wry humor and inimitable flair. She explained things clearly and succinctly, often giving broader cooking and troubleshooting tips along the way. But these demonstrations were not as easy as Julia made them appear; every show was repeatedly practiced and stage-managed – stopwatch-timed and choreographed to ensure that all went well.
Learning that made me a little less self-conscious about the practicing I still do to prepare for a workshop or class!
You must have discipline to have fun. – Julia Child
Another example that Julia sets for me is her deep concern for her audience – she genuinely wanted people to not only learn to cook, but learn to love cooking and enjoy the results. To ensure their success, Julia made sure she experimented with the ingredients they would buy, and with the equipment they would have in the house. She didn’t make assumptions about what people might already know and worked to relate to them on their terms.
Julia Child led a fascinating and full life, and made a dramatic impact on American’s approach to cooking. This month marks the 100th anniversary of her birth. Julia came to the forefront at a time when many housewives were tired of doing everything fast and easy, cooking out of cans and boxes. Instead, she taught the delight of fresh ingredients, lovingly prepared and served.
I don’t think about whether people will remember me or not. I’ve been an okay person. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve taught people a thing or two. That’s what’s important. – Julia Child