Yesterday marked the 100th birthday of the one and only Julia Child!
Born in the glamorous city of Pasadena with all the pretty people, Julia was the eldest of three and daughter of a Princeton grad and staunch Republican and a paper company heiress whose father was also Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. Julia lived a life of privelege yet life was not always rosy for this 6’2 California girl. She had gone to school intent on becoming a famous novelist and worked in the advertising department of W&J Sloane. However, she apparently didn’t get along with her new boss after transferring to the store’s LA location because she was fired for gross insubordination. During World War II Julia volunteered as a research assistant with the Office of Strategic Services, now known as the CIA, in Washington DC, China and Sri Lanka where she met the love of her life, Paul Child. The two returned to the states at the end of the war and were married.
In 1948, now working for the U.S. Information Service at the American Embassy in Paris, Paul and Julia moved to France where Julia’s culinary adventures began. She trained at the infamous Cordon Bleu for six months before joining forces with fellow students Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle to form the cooking school L’Ecole de Trois Gourmandes. With the intent to introduce French cuisine to American cooks and rescue their families and guests from atrocities like the casserole and jello molds with fruit and marshmallows in them, Les Trois Gourmandes embarked on the creation of a two-volume cookbook. Unfortunately the 3lb., 734 page manuscript was rejected before another publisher picked it up and released it and in September 1961 Mastering the Art of French Cooking was born. This book changed the culinary industry in America and remained the bestselling cookbook for five straight years after publication. Julia went on to promote her book on a PBS station in Boston which began her television career that won her countless awards including the George Foster Peabody Award and an Emmy!
Over the years Julia Child has received criticism for everything from not washing her hands on air to the high fat content French cuisine is famous for to which Julia advised everything in moderation saying, “I would rather eat one tablespoon of chocolate russe cake than three bowls of Jell-O!” In 1993, Julia became the first woman to be inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame and received France’s highest honor, the Legion d’Honneur, in 2000. Two years later, her famous kitchen in which three of her cooking shows were filmed, became an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
In 2004, two days shy of her 92nd birthday, Julia Child died of kidney failure at home in Montecito, California. Her legacy, however, lives on!
There is a rose the color of butter named for Julia Child that she chose herself.
The French Chef was the first cooking show ever televised on PBS and the first show ever to be close captioned for the hearing impaired.
Julia Child wore a size 12 shoe.
Julia’s last meal was French Onion soup.
Because of her height, Julia had her countertops built two inches higher for comfort.