My grandparents, whom you no doubt remember from our weekly Sunday brunches, are longtime aficionados of culture, fine food, and all things French. They have spent much time abroad, and when my father and uncle were growing up, they moved the family to Paris to live. In the 1960s, my grandmother had the opportunity to take classes at Le Cordon Bleu, a well-respected cooking school in the heart of Paris. Because of the recent interest in French food and cooking spawned by Nora Ephron’s film Julie & Julia, I thought it would be nice for my Granny to share some of her experiences of her time at the school. Luckily, my grandmother responded just in time… she and my grandpa are, as I type this, on the plane to France!
Le Cordon Bleu, Paris 1963-64.
Here are some of my memories of my classes at the Cordon Bleu.
As Julia Child noted in the film, Madame, the owner, was icy and unwelcoming. No one liked her. Our class of six students was conducted in the unheated basement of the Cordon Bleu. Each morning we would descend into the chilly room, look at the menu posted for the day, take our posts in front of our gas burner, and await instructions The chef, a portly, irascible Frenchman, padded around in large bedroom slippers, pinching the girls on their backsides as he checked on their bèchamel sauce and belted out criticism ( in French , of course) He did not have a high opinion of female cooks and claimed that no woman could ever work in a bakery. After three hours we would break for lunch, sit at a table and be served what we had prepared during our morning class. Afternoons were devoted to demonstrations in a large auditorium also conducted in French by our chef and open to anyone who bought a ticket. After three months I received a certificate which is now hanging in our Minnesota kitchen. The recipes , possibly 100 in all, rest on a Rolodex hidden away in a cupboard. Unlike Julia, we do not cook with much butter or cream.
Granny & Grandpa Veggie Patch are also hip!