That was said by Julia Child, the woman who became recognized for her love of good food, cooking, and who wasn’t afraid to be generous with butter. The millennial generation’s exposure to Julia Child may have come from watching Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her in the 2009 film Julie & Julia (which she nailed, by the way). Her personality was refreshing and frank, her voice distinctive, and her talent and skill were unquestioned in the culinary world.
Ironically, when she married Paul Child, she’s reported to have said, “I can barely boil an egg.” And, apparently Paul stated at some point, “I married her despite her cooking.” It was really because of Paul that she was introduced to fine food when they were in France, an encounter that awakened something in her that would become her lifelong passion.
She was born in California to John and Julia McWilliams, a girl who was gutsy, social, and lively. According to her brother, John McWilliams, their father was relatively stern and “thought that children should be seen and not heard.” That didn’t seem to squash Julia’s qualities, however, or her zest for life.
At 6 feet 2 inches tall, her height was just one of her unique attributes. Julia and her two siblings were all over 6 feet, and their mother preferred to say: “My only claim to fame is that I have produced 18.5 feet of children.” She was athletic and played a variety of sports, involving basketball, which was the sport her mother had played for Smith College years earlier.
She met Paul Child when they were both abroad working for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), but they didn’t marry until they were back in the states. Both would enjoy 48 years of marriage, and even though they were never blessed with children, they were fiercely devoted to each other and deeply in love.
It was while they stayed in Paris that Julia became a culinary student at Le Cordon Bleu and out of 12 students in her class, she was the only female. That experience at the school led the way for her life’s work: preparing and eating good food, and working to make it accessible to others, too.
After years of testing recipes and making modifications, an 800-page manuscript was submitted for publishing, but it was rejected more than once before it finally hit the press in 1961 under the title of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (It would be considered part of culinary cannon of classic cookbooks if a list like that existed.).
Her beloved Paul got ill following some strokes and eventually had to be put in an assisted living home. She visited him consistently, and if she was taking a trip and wasn’t able to go and see him face to face, she would always call. He died in 1994, the man who had championed her work and passion, walking by her side for almost 50 years.
Apart from cooking, one of the characteristics that exude from Julia is a love of learning and zest for life. Despite aging, she continuously life with fervor, fly fishing when she was almost 80 in Norway, continuing her involvement with the food industry, receiving honorary degrees from Harvard and other universities, and writing more books. And though she took fine cooking to the American table through her work, she reportedly also enjoyed hotdogs at a ball game, and was a fan of French fries from McDonald’s.
Her story is so charming because it’s so reachable; she started with virtually no cooking experience, only to end up being regarded as an authority in the culinary world. She joined culinary school and then taught classes and was eager about sharing what she loved with others. For those of us who love to cook, her story is both endearing and inspiring.
Cooking tours are a great way to learn new techniques and see them modeled by those that have mastered them. And, just like Julia, expanding your food knowledge may awaken a culinary passion you’ve never known before!