Julia Liked It. She Really Liked It.


We all crossed our fingers and said our prayers when Julia came to dinner. Would she actually like what we served her? Enough to eat a lot of it, rather than just say something nice--or, worse, not say anything 'tall (as she would say), out of the unfailing politeness (she was too hearty and unaffectedly American for politesse)and bonhomie that kept every dinner-table conversation aloft?

Regina Charboneau of course wondered the same then when she cooked for Julia's first visit to her hometown of Natchez. She already had proof that Julia liked her biscuits, but she'd also watched Julia be politely, firmly frank about faults she found in food others served her. She was right to worry--especially when she was cooking on the day after trying to match Julia drink for drink at a welcome reception.

Southern cooks always have something besides biscuits in their arsenal: desserts, just the thought of which makes me want to go south. The one she pulled out--everyone put on the dog, another great Julia phrase, for Julia--was beignets, which fancy guests were lapping up long before the current restaurant doughnut-for-dessert trend.

But the guarantee that nothing could go wrong was her pecan praline sauce. I live on and for sugar, so I'm not the least daunted by the pound of sugar it starts with--and neither should you be, if you have a hankering for pralines and the brown-sugar icing that I could live on and no one outside the South seems to get right. Regina added a secret that makes pretty much everything better: buttermilk.

Julia lived by the principle that everything's better with butter. I live by another: everything's better with buttermilk. And a pound of sugar into the bargain--well, if you're looking for a dessert to serve over ice cream, fresh berries, or just to eat straight from a spoon, look no farther. I sure don't plan to.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
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