It's a tradition. Every Christmas. Baking a yule log. To be precise, baking Julia Child's Buche de Noel. Oui. Tres bien!!
I may have mentioned this before, but I'm a Franco-fanatic. It's French? Oui, je t'aime. I love it. Automatically.
It all started as a little girl. My mother was also a Francophile, studied the French language all through high school and college. When I was little, I'm talking four years old, Mom made me French flash cards. On a deck of blank index cards, she drew simple pictures of every day things like "cat", "dog", "house", "mother", colors, numbers, and so on. Then she printed the English word underneath the drawing. On the back, she printed the French word. I practiced with those cards for hours with her.
That's when my love affair began.
When I got a little older, I began watching The French Chef with her on PBS. Oh, how I loved Julia and her pearls and her jovial self. I loved the way Mom wrote down each recipe, with notes in the margins of her legal pad on tips Julia might have given to do this or that. I loved the way Mom laughed at Julia's little asides. I wanted to be just like Mom and Julia.
During one episode, Julia made her Buche de Noel. Mom and I were swooning. And that's when the tradition began. We made our first yule log when I was about eight-years-old, I think. We made it during the day on Christmas Eve, to eat by the Christmas tree that evening after dinner.
In the early days, I mostly sifted flour, licked bowls, and taste-tested. But as I grew older, I became more and more involved in the process. And every year, we made it together on Christmas Eve. When I came home from college, when I spent the holidays with my folks as an adult...Christmas Eve would find Mom and I in her kitchen, yule-logging. We'd have a bit of egg nog or a glass of champagne as we made meringue mushrooms and chocolate buttercream frosting. We would laugh and chat and sip. Julia would have loved being in the kitchen with us, I think.
When I lost my mom a few years ago, I made my first buche de noel in my own kitchen. It was terribly sad, and I thought I might not be able to do it anymore. But last year, I invited my 12-year-old niece to join me, and began to pass the tradition on to her. We had a wonderful time! And at Thanksgiving this year, she said, "You know, Aunt Tammy, I was in a bakery and saw a yule log the other day. It wasn't nearly as nice as ours!" I loved that.
We enjoyed our annual "A Very Gilley Christmas" gathering over the past weekend, and though scheduling didn't permit my niece to sous-chef for me - or would that be sous-yule-log? - I baked Mom and Julia's buche de noel for my family. When I walked into her house, my sister's eyes lit up and she squealed, "oh the yule log! I'm so happy to see it! I know it's a tradition and that it would be here, but it just makes me happy to see it!" Me, too, Sis.