Meet my little sister, Julia Moss McArthur, a jolt of joy in a dreary world. She’s beaming about the traditional chocolate orange she pulled out of her Christmas stocking. She spends most of her day beaming, being helpful, making fun of her elders and giving us positive feedback. To finish a dreary task and hear Julie declare “Good little worker!” is almost as good as being awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France. If one of us dresses up and looks spiffy, Julie will let out a wolf whistle. She oogles attractive men, like John, my cousin Cort or our friend Michael Histed, simpers, tosses back her hair and calls them “My Sveetie.”
At five o’clock sharp she nukes a bag of popcorn and distributes it in two baskets to accompany drinks.She’s the one who reports if toilet paper or dishwasher detergent is running low, and keeps on the case until it’s replaced. She can take care of Number One: On the kitchen calendar she got away with blacking out every entry that read “Julie, Dentist” for months. You’ve figured out from her pic that she’s Down Syndrome, and she’s not great at reading, writing or figgering, but for years, at my mother’s insistence, she’d do a daily weigh-in, and write the number on the calendar. So faithful was she that’s she’s write “NO BAT” until someone replaced the batteries on the scales.
Julie’s a gourmande — her table manners are neat and sure as she picks her way through a lobster (in Julia language”mobster”)dinner. Oysters on the half shell are one of her gustatory passions; she slurped her way through two dozen before I’d found my lemon wedge. Fish, fowl, game, caviar, Cheetos, brussel sprouts,stinky cheese tendon, cotton candy,pate, tofu — I have no doubt that if Julie were handed a raw sea urchin and a spoon she’d dig right in.
And she’d pronounce it “Wishious!”
“Wishious!” — always proclaimed with kissed fingertips a la Maurice Chevalier, is the Julie equivalent of a Michelin star. She’s enchantingly generous with one star. If you’ve stepped up your game, you’ll get a “Wishious!” followed by her second star — a Namaste.
Then there’s the dinner when you’ve wandered into Julie’s Bocuse/Achatz territory, the third star, the ultimate acclaim. First, an enthusiastic “Wishious!”, the kissed fingertips flung into the air. A few more appreciative bites wins you a beaming bow and a Namaste. If you’ve sourced your ingredients, cooked like a poet, and pushed up your presentation, Julia will tap her lips with her napkin, get to her feet, give you a standing ovation and yell “Bravo!”
It’s not as if other family members are stingy with praise — hey, we’re a family of cooks and eaters. But there is nothing, nothing like the unaffected, innocent and informed standing O from Julia. I’ m considering taking my sister on the road and visiting all my kitchen buddies. I’ll observe her reactions to your fab meals and compile the Julia Guide. As Julie herself would say: “No wowwies!” You’ll bask in that standing O within four meals, and you’ll beam and bow, just as I do.