In light of the new movie Julie and Julia, the internet and other media is abuzz with renewed interest in Julia Child. The movie combines Child’s memoir My Life in France with Julie and Julia, Julie Powell’s anecdotal account of the year she attempted to make every recipe from Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The movie parallels the two women’s journey to self-discovery, finding themselves in their passion for cooking.
Child’s own journey began in Pasadena, California in 1912. A member of a well-to-do family, Child attended a prestigious college before working as copywriter, and later a spy for the Office of Strategic Services! She met Paul Child, who also worked for OSS, whom she married in 1946. She went with him when he was assigned to work in Paris, France. It was there that she developed an appreciation for French cuisine. She enrolled in the Cordon Bleu culinary school, and developed the skill that changed her life and the culinary world.
Child went on to author several cookbooks, including Mastering the Art of French Cooking (co-authored), and host a number of celebrated cooking shows on the Public Broadcasting System, the first being the landmark series The French Chef in 1962. I don’t remember any of the episodes that I watched as a kid (only Dan Ackroyd’s parody on Saturday Night Live), but I recall a moment from a later series where Child observed a chef preparing a decadent chocolate pastry. Upon sampling a bite, Child was overcome with ecstasy and burst into tears. It was a moment that demonstrated Child’s genuine love of good food: Pure joy without pretense and conceit. Through her shows and writings, the 6 ‘ 2” woman with an easy going manner and funny accent brought a style to the kitchen that made the techniques of fine cooking accessible – perhaps demystified – for the home cook, with humor and fun to boot. Over a career lasting over forty years, Child’s single-handedly changed the way we think about food in the US (www.starchefs.com, 2004)
Child’s influence was not lost on the professional chef, either. Mastering the Art of French Cooking is considered a standard guide for the culinary community (Biography.com, 2004). She was a member and founder of several professional organizations, and received numerous awards and recognitions for her work in food preparation and knowledge. At her death in 2004, many Food Network celebrity chefs testified to how she influenced their decision to pursue culinary careers.
Readers and foodies are rediscovering and embracing one of the world’s most influential chefs and best known cooking show personality. Five years after her death, and at a time when Americans are seeking safer and more wholesome foods for the table, Child is poised to mold more generations in the way to cook and the fun in making a good meal.
Julie and Julia opens in theaters on August 7, 2009.
Check out Julia Child’s PBS site devoted to her cooking series.
While she declined offers for a series on Food Network, Child made appearances on its shows, and was appreciated with an episode of the Chefography series. Watch the episode here.
View her kitchen from her Massachusetts home, which she donated to the Smithsonian Institute in 2001.
Read Julie Powell’s Julie/Julia Project blog on the web (Warning: Contains profanity)
More information on Julia Child, including biographies, news articles, blogs and video clips, can be found on the world wide web. Simply search her name in your favorite search engine.
Find cookbooks by Julia Child in CCLS and PINES by searching “Child, Julia” in the PINES catalog.