On Julia's 100th Birthday: 6 Food Blogging Lessons I Learned From Her

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In my family, the cooking gene skipped a generation. My grandmother nourished all of us with a steady diet of kosher, chicken-fat laden, soul-satisfying food. The gene passed over my mother's generation and landed somewhere off to the side of me, but it took years to discover that I liked to cook and wanted to learn more about it.

Julia Child taught me everything I know about cooking. During college, in the early 1970s, while my friends cut classes to watch afternoon soaps, I inhaled every episode of The French Chef. I bought her cookbooks when I could find them at the used bookstore in town. I couldn't get enough of Julia, cooking teacher extraordinaire, who dropped, spilled, flung and goofed, but also infused new-to-us recipes and techniques with her special joie de vivre.

Though she passed away in 2004, two years before my first blog post, Julia Child also taught me every important thing I know about food blogging.

So, as the food world celebrates Julia's 100th birthday, here are six lessons about food blogging I learned from Julia Child.

Julia and the Potato Flip

1. Work hard.

Nobody worked harder than Julia, who tested, retested, wrote and rewrote, to make sure her recipes were clear and precise, and—most important to her—that we would succeed at recreating them. She wanted us to have fun, but also to learn. Julia's work ethic allowed for no shortcuts; quality came from methodical testing, note-taking, revision, proofreading.

When Julia published a recipe in a cookbook, there it stayed, forever etched into the page, and any mistakes stayed with it. Bloggers have the chance to fix their mistakes, and I'm especially grateful when readers point out my errors to me. However, my goal is to get it right the first time, to present recipes that are as clear and easy-to-follow as Julia's own recipes. I don't publish recipes that don't work in my kitchen, because I want the recipes you find here to work in your kitchen.

2. Use real ingredients.

Butter, eggs, salt, good cheese and chocolate. Julia Child might have been the original whole foods cook. She taught us to respect real ingredients, real seasonings, and good wine, and to buy the best ingredients we can afford because it really does make a difference to the outcome of a dish.

While I appreciate some store-bought convenience foods (think broccoli slaw, wonton skins, puff pastry), I don't believe that canned cream of mushroom soup or instant mashed potatoes are ingredients. I do use artificial sweetener when I'm cooking for diabetic kids and friends, but 99.9 percent of the recipes in The Perfect Pantry use real, whole food ingredients. I want you to stock your pantry with real food, too.

3. Keep calm and carry on.

Do you remember the episode of The French Chef in which Julia exhorted us all to have the courage of our convictions and attempt the frying pan potato pancake flip, only to overshoot the pan and watch it land on the stove top instead? She calmly slid the pancake back into the pan, tidied the edges with a spatula, and kept right on cooking.

At times, both in cooking and in blogging, things go wrong: the mayonnaise breaks, the chicken burns, the photos are out of focus, or for some reason your blog page takes forever to load, and you don't know how to speed it up, or it suddenly goes completely and horribly blank. I don't always keep completely calm, but I carry on until I figure out what happened. That's what Julia would do.

4. Don't give up.

When Houghton-Mifflin rejected the original manuscript for Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia persevered until the book found an editor (Judith Jones), a publisher (Knopf), and an audience.

Some food blogs find an audience right away, but most take weeks, or months, or sometimes years to connect with the readers who stay with them. To fellow bloggers, I say: If your thoughtfully crafted posts haven't found an audience, keep at it. Create great content, give your blog value, and make it easy for readers to use. Hosting giveaways or contests can attract more readers, but it's great content that will keep them coming back.

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