Every time a chef would scrape something out of a mixing bowl and into a pan, Julia would wait one beat, then she’d look in the bowl and either ask the baker why he or she hadn’t used every last bit of the batter, or she’d grab a spatula and scrape the remains out herself. And, as she’d scrape, she might say something like, “You chefs might be able to waste a little batter, but not us home cooks.” And when Julia got done scraping, there wasn’t a streak left for licking.
I didn’t think of it then, but when I look back on it I’m a little surprised that the chefs were so profligate – it certainly went against the grain of old-school training, in which every bit of food was used, accounting, I’m sure, for the creation of a million vegetable soups and trifles.
It’s also not a particularly French way of doing things and, while Julia wasn’t French, she was trained in France, a France still feeling the effects of World War II. To this day, French people ‘of a certain age’ talk about finishing whatever food is on their plates and will say that either they or their parents remember what it was like when food was scarce. In fact, a few weeks ago, when I was baking in Paris, I poured the sugar from the box into my canister and was about to toss the box when a friend took it, tore open the top and poured the last little teaspoonful of sugar into the jar. I must have looked a little surprised because she said, “This just proves I’m French – I can’t let anything go to waste.”
I don’t think it’s French – I think it’s smart. And I think it’s Julia-ish, too.