Food & Drink

Enjoy a French cocktail a la Julia Child's colleague

Everyone knows Julia Child wrote “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Right?

Well, not exactly. She co-wrote the book with two other women, including the immensely talented Simone Beck, a Frenchwoman whom Julia Child met in Paris in 1949.

Child's husband, Paul, an information officer with the State Department, was stationed in Paris, and Beck was a flag-waver for Le Cercle des Gourmettes, a culinary society for women that Julia Child joined.

Depending on whom you believe, Beck, widely known by her nickname “Simca,” was either entirely responsible for teaching Julia Child how to cook, or at least partially responsible.

The two worked and cooked together for 20-some years, which, despite rumors of tension, suggests a profound shared influence on each other, and an intense, if perhaps imperfect, friendship.

I own only one of Beck's solo books, the 1972 tome “Simca's Cuisine.” With meal-framed chapters like “Un dejeuner sans-souci (A carefree luncheon)” and “Un diner chic en hiver (A chic winter dinner),” it's a playful-but-serious collection of heady relic-recipes, cleverly packaged for the kinds of sans-souci occasions one engaged in during the early 1970s in the monied quarters of Paris or Cap Ferrat.

My favorite recipe in the book isn't actually food; it's a macerated wine drink. Found in chapter 24, “Le Cocktail (A cocktail party),” it seduced me entirely the first time I made it. Honeyed, pungent, intensely citrus-acidy, less sweet than I expected. Lively, vigorous, luscious, refreshing.

Granted, it took about a month to make, until I realized you could get dried orange peel at the store (look in the spice aisle of most supermarkets) and save yourself a couple of weeks.

Although Beck doesn't specify a type of wine to use, I've had success with inexpensive dry reisling.