How Did Asbestos Tile Sneak Into Julia Child’s Baguette Recipe?
Julia Child originally suggested baking bread on asbestos as a simple way for home bakers to get professional results. The recommendation fell in line with her work sharing fine cuisine with home cooks. But the asbestos tile did not land in Child’s baguette recipe on a lark.
Julia Child co-wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking with her friends and husband Paul Child. The team spent almost a year and nearly 300 pounds of flour developing their baguette recipe. The recipe emphasized the importance of creating a baker’s oven at home. The at-home baker’s oven had a couple of important characteristics:
- A hot baking surface
The team determined fire resistant asbestos tiles provided an ideal baking surface. Dropping a hot brick in a pan of water created the steam necessary for a fine baker’s oven.
Although the bread turned out perfect, the recipe was ultimately changed. Depending on which report you read, Julia’s editor or her niece heard asbestos could cause cancer. After learning this fact, the team knew they could no longer recommend baking on asbestos tiles.
Paul Child reportedly worked in a frenzy trying to find a suitable replacement. The second printing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking Suggested baking on a plain red tile.
Asbestos Can Lurk in Unexpected Places
Julia Child and her asbestos baking tile highlight a difficult truth. Asbestos and its dangers can pop up in surprising places. Most asbestos products are no longer sold in this country, but some are. For example, car parts like brakes and clutches may contain asbestos. Some older homes may also hide asbestos building materials.
People can help protect themselves by learning where asbestos products may still be hiding. As for baking bread, experts say a regular pizza stone will get the job done.