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Julia Cuvy: A Life Well Lived
With no visitors allowed, Julia Cuvy died alone in a hospital bed in Lyon during the current corona virus lockdown in France. Julia Cuvy did not die from Covid-19 itself, but from a long, hard-fought battle with cancer. My last conversations were texts through WhatsApp. I sent her pictures of beautiful wreaths on the doors in Old Town, occasional visual jokes from Instagram and snapshots of trips we had taken together. And what glorious trips they were. We alternated vacations in the US with “Les Trois Js” in France — Julia, along with Jean Claude and Jacqueline Panel. The Three Js would come to the US one year for a two- or three-week stay and then we would go the following year to France. The Big Apple was thoroughly and hilariously explored by them, as were Maine, Montana, and New Orleans. Julia was always the trésorier for the trips through France. We all gave her money, which she kept in a very chic zippered bag. Out of this pool came our funds for gas, wine and food. One of our most memorable moments came in Provence, where Jean Claude filled up a huge container from a rosé wine pump just like in a gas station. Julia monitored the mounting number of liters and euros and shouted Arrêtes! when she deemed we had enough wine to go on.
Chocolate, Handbags And Dom Perignon
She had became close friends with Jean Claude and Jacqueline Panel of Chocolaterie Panel which provided divine chocolates and preserves every Christmas to adoring fans at La Cuisine. Julia was part of the équipe at Christmas, wrapping dozens of gift boxes of chocolates amid the chaos that Christmas brings to all retailers and suppliers alike. I am sure her bows on sleek boxes were the prettiest. A single woman of great style, always dressed in a conservative but elegant way, she was the only real person I knew who had a Hermes Kelly Bag (originally called a sac à dépêches, Julia told me) and used it. When she came here, she loved the idea of shopping at Ross Dress For Less. Both she and Jacqueline always found really neat outfits there, and you could hear them laughing in the dressing room and joking with the sales women as they chose what was to be kept and what was not. Three very painful hip operations never stopped her from visiting museums with us or going through churches to look at medieval stained glass. She dragged me to the church where Dom Perignon was buried so that we could thank him in prayer for giving us champagne, the only white wine she ever drank, much preferring red. Julia even got me inebriated enough in a restaurant that I sang a French song with my Donald Duck voice (it would never have occurred if I had been sober). Our close friends, Bob Bennett and Kevin Canfield (founding members of Soirée Du Film group) regaled me with stories about their delightful visit to Lyon. She treated them to her version of Boeuf Bourgignon (which may have involved some chocolate in the sauce) and took them on a superb tour of Lyon and the surrounding countryside. Although neither Kevin nor Bob knew her well, they too were entranced by Julia’s effervescence and exuberant sense of humor.
A Napkin Trick & Two Recipes
Neither Kevin nor I will ever forget the times in restaurants (and we never knew when it would occur) when Julia and Jacqueline would go through a little series of intricate folds of their napkins and turn them into buxom bikini tops that they strung across their chests. This somewhat grainy video gives you an idea, but it lacks the French exuberance with which Julia and Jacqueline executed this visual joke — thoroughly enjoyed by onlookers.
Julia Cuvy was a physical therapist by training and career, but in her heart she was a marvelous interior decorator and entertainer. I have almost nothing left, not even a photo of her beautiful house and garden, where she introduced us to Cerdon a bubbly and decidedly red wine that I now drink every summer and toast her. Her secrets for her version of Boeuf Bourgignon are lost, but I have two recipes that were totally Julia, classic but a bit earthy and appreciated by all her guests. And as she would advise, C’est très important to follow her instructions exactly. Consider it done, dear Julia.
- 1 kg (2.2lb) fresh tomatoes, blanched, peeled and diced.
- 800gr-1kg (3/4-1lb)cleaned squid cut into rings
- Olive oil
- 2 or 3 small white onions, finely sliced
- 2 minced peeled garlic cloves
- freshly ground pepper and fine sea salt
- pinch of Cayenne pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 or 4 large sprigs of thyme
- 1/2 liter (a bit over 2 cups) white wine
- a bit of cognac or whiskey to flame
- Lightly saute the squid rings in some olive oil for just a few minutes.
- Remove them from the pan and add the sliced onions and minced garlic
- Allow the sliced onions and minced garlic to become translucent and slightly colored over medium heat and then add the squid to the pan.
- Flame this in cognac or whiskey and add the tomatoes.
- Salt and pepper to taste and add the cayenne and herbs
- Heat this through for a minute or two and then add the wine.
- Allow this to simmer, semi-covered for an hour. at a low heat.
- At the end, if you need to reduce sauce, raise heat to medium until you get the desired consistency.
- Serve this with rice or pasta, and a salad.
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- freshly ground pepper & sea salt to taste
- 1- medium onion, peeled
- 4 - whole cloves
- 2 Tablespoon (30ml) - finely chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup (118ml)- good quality Red Wine Vinegar
- 2 tbs (30ml) - Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cups(118ml) Grapeseed Oil (do not use olive or canola oil)
- 1lb- (454gr) dried Le Puy lentils
- 1 large peeled carrot
- 1 large bay leaf
- 2 large finely sliced shallots
- Pierce the onion with a 4-6 cloves.
- Put the lentils in a pot of cold water with the clove-pierced onion, a bay leaf, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and a peeled carrot.
- Once the water has come to a boil, cook for about 15 minutes. (test at 12 minutes for doneness; the lentils must not be mushy.)
- Drain immediately and refresh in cold water.
- Combine the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Start whisking, gradually adding the oil until you get a good emulsion.
- Add the vinaigrette to the lentils along with a few finely diced shallots and finely chopped parsley.(The lentils absorb a lot of the vinaigrette, so add to your taste.)
- This salad keeps indefinitely on the road; just store in a cold place at night.
- You may want to add more vinaigrette from time to time.
- My favorite wine vinegars are from Martin Pouret.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.
What a lovely tribute to your friend.
She “loved ALL the men, but never just one”! I have a whole photo album of our second trip to France, including her beautiful, welcoming home, and many of our wonderful adventures. Will work on sending some to you. Lovely post. Thanks, Nance! Love you both! (Thanks to Kate Harlin.).
That is such a wonderful quote from her. It would be great to have some photos of those trips. I lost mine in a computer transfer. We were so lucky to have had those times with her.
Sounds like a wonderful and fun person to have known and what a wonderful tribute to her–I’m sure she would have liked it!
Bonjour je suis la niece de Julia. Je suis très émue par votre témoignage. Je sais les merveilleux moments que vous avez passé ensemble et comme elle vous aimait. Un immense merci pour cette hommage
,Merci de votre lettre. Votre tante est encore bien aimée par toutr les Cuisinettes. J’espêre de vous rencontre un jour à Lyon.