Today is International Women’s Day, and since women are such a big part of food and the kitchen it seemed only fitting I pay tribute. There are many women in my life who have helped and inspire me along my journey in life, not the least of which was my Mom. She started in the kitchen (perhaps because that’s where I always hung out!) and then her wisdom led me out to the garden, and then to the sky. Her encouragement has inspired me to discover many of my passions. Her love of being a Mom, at home for her family, is something I will always admire.
The women I have come to admire later in life are also people who are secure in who they are, proud of what they have to contribute. When I was growing up, I loved reading Ayn Rand’s books (thanks, Mom 🙂 ) She was a strong woman who wrote about strong people with convictions and passion. I loved classic movies, and my favourite actresses were Katherine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall. They never let movie men push them around but they were elegant and sexy nonetheless.
When I discovered my true passion in the kitchen, I was thrilled to read the story of Ina Garten, who jumped in and bought a specialty food store in the Hamptons because she wanted a change from a job at the White House, and fell in love with the place when she visited. She called her business The Barefoot Contessa, starting out with no formal training and learning every job. She developed recipes and started to cater.
Years later, she wrote a cookbook. When I wrote my first cookbook, I sent her an email saying what an inspiration she had been. She replied, to my surprise and delight, saying she loved my book and wished me every success.
I love to share, and so people who do the same attract me. Alice Waters is a woman who wants to share food with the world, and make sure they appreciate not just the taste but the work of the farmer who produced it as well. It was through reading about her work at Chez Panisse in California that I learned of Slow Food for the first time. I heard her speak in Italy at Terra Madre last fall, and she is every bit the humble but formidable force of nature I expected. Her Edible Schoolyard Project is saving many kids from a life of ignorance about food and community.
Perhaps the perfect inspiration for me though, is Julia Child. Her passion for food was topped only for her passion for her husband, Paul – something I can totally understand. (Thank goodness I married a chef, so he doesn’t mind my foodie mentality.) She wanted to make great food something that was accessible for everyone; I love her distaste for the pretentious side of the North American restaurant industry. I love her common sense approach to life.
One of the things Julia espoused was that time around the table was precious and should be encouraged. I say three cheers for that philosophy! So, in honour of Julia and all the women who inspire others to do more, dream bigger, live larger, I offer you a simple recipe to share at the table sometime soon. Roast Chicken is something anyone can accomplish in the kitchen.
Toast the women in your life that have inspired you. If you are a woman, perhaps you can think about who you might be able to inspire…