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WalkerSpeak: My Encounters With Julia

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Meryl Streep as "Julia Child" in Columbia Pictures' JULIE & JULIA

Meryl Streep as "Julia Child" in Columbia Pictures' JULIE & JULIA

I knew, when I met Julia Child, that I would always remember this brush with greatness. As it was, I was able to not just brush her greatness, but also feed her a couple of barbecued chicken wings — from my fingers to hers.

This happened about in 1995 when the International Association of Culinary Professionals met here. We had convened in a large hall north of town, big enough to hold hundreds of us. Julia was surrounded by chattering admirers when I came up with a plate of sticky, smoky chicken wings and offered her one. She took it enthusiastically and popped it in her mouth. “Oh, that’s lovely,” she said. “I think I’ll have another.” I’d have fed her the entire plate, if she’d asked.

I also was able to spend the better part of a day in the audience during a Public Television taping at the San Antonio Convention Center featuring Julia and chef Graham Kerr. The program was a cook-off of sorts, where Kerr would cook things that were good for you while Julia would prepare hers with real butter and cream.

It was a long, arduous day for the stars. Some in the audience did get tastes of Julia’s bread pudding, as well as Graham Kerr’s, when they were passed out to the audience.  I am a Julia fan and a devotee of butter and cream, so I knew I’d like hers better. But the Galloping Gourmet’s version was surprisingly delicious, too, even with its dearth of fat content.

Finally, I have a photo to commemorate the moment my first cooking teacher met Julia Child. My mother had come to San Antonio for a visit and to see the famous chef who was signing books after an event we attended.  Julia autographed the cookbook my mother had brought along. Someday, it will sit on my cookbook shelf, with the photo taped inside right next to the autograph.

(Photos Jonathan Wenk / Columbia Pictures )

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