French Cuisine for the Young & Broke: A Modern Day Julia Child’s Culinary Challenge for College Students
With her landmark cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child introduced French cuisine to the American public. With her blog, Julie Powell introduced Julia Child to a new generation of Americans (it even got her a movie deal). With her cookbook, BU alumna Eléonor Picciotto may just become a modern version of them both. French Cuisine for the Young & Broke, not only makes French cuisine more accessible, but introduces it to a new demographic: America’s college students.
Growing up in France, Picciotto’s mother hated being in the kitchen, and often delegated cooking responsibilities to her daughter. Her appetite for French cuisine and culinary skills came from there, and she brought them with her to Boston University, where she first decided to study journalism four years ago.
While at school, armed with only a hotpot, Picciotto began making meals for the friends she’d formed a supper club with. Every week, they’d take turns hosting dinner, and, every week, she continued to surprise them. After seeing her friends’ rave reaction at the homemade applesauce she’d thrown together in mere minutes, made simply with cooked apples and a dash of cinnamon, she realized that they didn’t have a sense of how to combine and prepare basic ingredients.
“I had to prove my recipe to them,” Picciotto said, who recreated the applesauce right then and there. “The problem here is the lack of knowledge.”
During Picciotto’s sophomore year, when she was a member of the BU Ski Team, she tore a ligament and broke her femur. Doctors prohibited her from skiing for 18 months and ordered that she rest for six weeks in a cast. She knew she’d go stir crazy sitting on the couch, but that’s when her friends said, “You love to write, you love to cook and you love to eat. Instead of sitting here driving yourself crazy, why not write a cook book?”
She started with the recipes she knew by heart, and went from there, asking friends to help her with the photography and design. Nearly two years later, the book was complete, and her quest for publishers began. At age 19, Picciotto kept hearing, “Because she doesn’t have a name, we can’t publish her.” To them, she was just one student among hundreds of others, but that didn’t stop her.
“This is French cuisine written by French students for students,” Picciotto said. “No one had that concept yet.”
She decided to self-publish her book earlier this month with Lulu, and it’s already gained attention. In its December 9th issue, Entertainment Weekly singled the title out as the “best name for a cookbook,” and over 200 people attended the cookbook’s launch party in Manhattan, even though only 85 were expected to attend.
Picciotto graduated from Boston University in January, and is now blogging from home while working as a marketing intern for a prominent Manhattan-based jeweler. In February, she’ll be moving to Geneva for a full-time job with a Swiss watch company, but won’t forget about the “Young & Broke” in Boston. She already has plans to speak at the French Cultural Center of Boston on January 12th, and a digital version of her cookbook is expected to be released soon, that she’ll work on marketing here and abroad.
To get to know Picciotto a bit better, here a few other questions we asked her –
What are the four ingredients everyone should have in their pantry? Lemon, mustard, olive oil and some herbs, because they only cost a dollar and add flavor. In terms of baking, though, I’d say eggs, butter, sugar and flour.
What’s the first dish you ever made? Quatre Quarts! It’s the French version of the U.S. pound cake, but lighter.
What are your go-to dishes? If I have nothing at home, something with chicken, rice and sour cream, because I usually at least have that. If you tell me a couple hours ahead of time, salmon tartare (above). Or, if you give me a day’s notice, then veal milanese, my favorite dish.