Monday, July 19, 2010

Not too cool for school.

One of the coolest things I'm doing this summer is going to school. That's right, I'm back on the books! The School of Visual Arts recently created an MFA program for Interaction Design, and I'm taking one of their Summer Intensive courses. So far, it's been a great experience. I'm working on a group project and seriously enjoying the assigned reading.

Our first individual assignment was to write a short essay about one of our design heroes. None of you, I'm sure, will be surprised to learn that I chose one Mrs. Julia Child. I thought I'd share my little essay with you, since I know you love her as much as I do - or, if you don't, you soon will!

Julia Child is widely credited with revolutionizing the way mid-20th century Americans cooked and ate - and rightly so. But while we typically think of Julia's influence flowing primarily from her television shows - The French Chef in particular - it was her innovative way of writing a recipe, more than anything else, that led to her enormous influence on American home cooking and cuisine.

Traditionally, a recipe is written as a list of ingredients followed by a set of instructions in paragraph form. Julia, however, knew that when presented with recipes in this format, people tend to forgo reading through the recipe ahead of time, instead assembling the ingredients and diving in head-first. This method - cooking a recipe cold, without reading through the steps required - can often lead to confusion, mishaps and a frantic search for necessary equipment.

In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia and her co-authors addressed this issue by listing ingredients and equipment alongside the relevant steps in the recipe instructions, instead of ahead of them. The result? Cooks were forced to read through the entire process ahead of time, ensuring a firmer grasp on the principles of the recipe and a far sunnier outcome.

Add in the book's incredibly helpful, beautiful line drawings that assisted readers in the trimming of artichokes and trussing of chickens, and it becomes clear that Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a masterpiece of design as well as of cuisine.

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