Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at the age of 49. At 51, she introduced America to the concept of a television cooking show, "The French Chef". By the time she died at 92, she had authored numerous books, cooked on camera for hundreds of television episodes, been dubbed "Our Lady of the Ladle" by Time Magazine, won the French Legion of Honor, three Emmys and a Peabody, and perhaps in her opinion best of all, had been parodied on Second City, Saturday Night Live, and The Cosby Show.
Home sick with the flu in third grade, I remember watching her on daytime TV. As she man-handled an enormous fish and nasally exclaimed in breathless delight at its bright and clear (and lifeless) eye, a sure indication of freshness, I didn't know whether to laugh or vomit.
Now, as a fellow lover of French cuisine, I feel such strong affection for Julia. I've got loads of copper and cookbooks that I'm listing in the shop. And a brass cow. It's all because of Julia. Click on each pic for shopping information.
In her very first book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", which she and her two French co-authors wrote over six arduous years, she penned a dedication that gives the reader a soupçon of the authors' brilliance about to unfold:
"This is a book for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets, waistlines, time schedules, children's meals, the parent-chauffeur-den mother syndrome, or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat."
Her masterpiece, "The Way to Cook", was published in 1989, also by Knopf. Julia had just celebrated her 77th birthday. The cookbook is Child's hardcore take on her years in the kitchen, and she extolls the virtues of velvety butter and razor-sharp knives. The cookbook also contains an interesting passage about microwaves that hints at Child's willingness to loosen up about modern cooking methods. Years earlier, she famously alienated the makers of Cuisinart when she complained on live television about the dullness of the blades. Cuisinart had not only sponsored that episode but they were seated in the studio audience.
I love the photos in the book of Julia's gnarled liver-spotted hands. You know she earned every single scar. One of her suggestions to new cooks is to become accustomed to handling hot food with bare hands, as it is speedier than reaching for tongs. We have to wonder if cookbook editors of today would insist on hand models. Or on photoshopping Julia's scars and marks. Probably.
I'll leave you with a few entertaining tidbits I discovered in writing this post. I could go on and on but in Julia's words, "Everything in moderation. Including moderation."
- Julia continues to inspire us. A couple of weeks ago, Krista Tippitt interviewed world class cellist Yo-Yo Ma and asked him how he deals with stage fright. He said, "I channel Julia Child dropping a chicken." You can listen to the interview here.
- The funny thing is, Julia Child never dropped a chicken. Snopes researched this myth and debunked it. Read more here.
- Nevertheless, Julia did enjoy parading her peeps. In this clip, you can see what her husband Paul called her ability as a natural clown in front of the camera. And what a voice!
- Julia was 6'2". Paul was 5'10". But they fit together quite perfectly, like an oyster in its shell. In this excellent Vanity Fair expose, you can read about their steamy relationship.
- A modern day Julia Child, Mimi Thorisson is a food blogger living in rural France. She embodies the idea of food being hunted and gathered and each day revolves around sourcing and preparation for her passel of children and dogs. Like a cave woman. A stunningly beautiful half-French, half-Chinese cave woman. Read her here.
Photo of Julia Child by Paul Child. Other photos by Renn Kuhnen and Mithra Ballesteros.
Do you like relating the past to the present? Me too! Join me every Friday for strolls down Memory Lane, laughs, and always, pretty photos.