Julia Child didn’t set out to be a cooking celebrity. While that’s now a common condition, thanks to such outlets as The Food Network, Julia’s dream was not celebrity. She fell in love with French cooking, and she wanted her fellow Americans to appreciate it as well.
While Julia’s husband Paul was assigned to work in France, Julia took advantage of the opportunity to attend the world-famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. That led to a friendship with two women, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, who were attempting to write a cookbook teaching French cooking to Americans. Julia enthusiastically joined in, and the eventual result was Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book not only became a bestseller, it became a standard that French chefs have attempted to meet or exceed ever since.
Julia became a staple of public television; her first program, The French Chef, ran for nearly a decade and won both Emmy and Peabody awards. She was almost always on television thereafter, though the names of the shows changed to describe each series. She expanded her own home kitchen to a functioning television set from which she filmed most of her episodes. The kitchen today can be seen in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Meryl Streep portrayed Julia in the 2009 movie, Julie & Julia. Writer Julie Powell had attempted to prepare every one of Julia’s 524 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking during one year, and wrote a popular blog about it. Julia Child was unimpressed. She said, “I worked very hard on that book. I tested and retested those recipes for eight years so that everybody could cook them. And many, many people have. I don’t understand how she could have problems with them. She just must not be much of a cook.”
Julia Child received the French Legion of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She also published 18 books, most of which are still in print today…