In my family's Christmas gift exchange last year, I received a cast iron skillet and Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Both items have immeasurably improved my cooking. I loved Julie & Julia when I saw it a few years ago, but never got around to learning more about her. It wasn't until we were making strides toward more whole/Paleo eating in our household that I saw her name start popping up on healthy living blogs (Julia Child and all of her pastries and butter are healthy?! Yes!).
Within a few weeks of receipt, I learned the simplest of things that were already changing the way we ate. I learned simple ways to cook up steak or hamburger on the stovetop, the best way to cook peas, broccoli, and other common vegetables that I already thought I understood, a much more effective way of cooking eggs (this was helped in a big way by the cast iron skillet since we have no non-stick pans in the house), and the proper ratio for a simple oil & vinegar salad dressing. Soon, our grain-free meals, which had begun to feel boring, repetitive, and somewhat flavorless, were brimming with goodness.
We had so much fun going through different recipes in the first few months. I'd never been brave enough to try cooking brussel sprouts before, but I knew they'd be great with her recipe. Julia did not disappoint.
I've understood the importance of quality ingredients from an ecological standpoint, but Julia pointed me to specific things to watch for as well as how to prepare less-than-stellar ingredients such as frozen spinach in a delicious way. We had purchased a share of a cow several months before I received the cookbook and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing! After reading her tips and cooking nearly all cuts of beef using her as a guide, I was much more prepared for what cuts were best the second time around.
I have by no means mastered most of the recipes in her book. Some of them involve truffles and other such ridiculously expensive ingredients, but I have certainly learned some basic culinary skills that were sorrily lacking before. I wish I could fill this post with pictures of all the amazing food we have eaten due to the book, but unfortunately my cell phone photography skills do not do her justice. You'll just have to go get the book and try out some recipes for yourself to understand what I'm talking about!