So I’m sitting with a group of friends at a table in a restaurant called The Table, drinking Sauvignon Blanc and nibbling on Wagyu beef sliders and making conversation with a friend on my right about the latest audio book I’m experiencing: Dearie, the Remarkable Life of Julia Child (by Bob Spitz). And this same friend who, at Christmas, had asked if I was a Foodie (see post Food Bitches), and who swears by the bug and brain eating Andrew Zimmern , actually uttered the above phrase as a question: “Isn’t she irrelevant now that we have so much food culture?”
It is BECAUSE of Julia Child that we have the food culture we have now. Not only did her show, The French Chef, which aired in 1963, take the fear out of cooking for American housewives, the show and her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and her dynamo personality, bridged that gap between the macho, untouchable restaurant chef and the home cook and diner.
Julia Child was a social animal and very passionate about food. The door to her kitchen was open at all times for a younger generation of chefs inspired by her: Jeremiah Tower, Jasper White, Emeril Lagasse, Lydia Shire, Daniel Boulud and more who, have in turn inspired the young chefs we have today.
Julia Child networked with other foodies ––though foodie wasn’t a term yet––cookbook author and television personality James Beard and New York Times restaurant critic Craig Claiborne. In 1985 she started with Robert Mondavi the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF), highlighting the pleasure of eating and drinking. In 1995 she started the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts whose financial grants supported, and still support, the culinary arts and further development of the professional food world in America. She worked relentlessly coast to coast cooking up huge gala fund-raisers for her cause, which exposed the world to upcoming American chefs and exposed America to the importance of food, cooking and dining. (And then the Food Channel was born!)
Some interesting facts about Julia Child I learned from this fascinating book:
She told everyone she was 6’2” but she was actually 6’3”
She loved Dan Aykroyd’s, Saturday Night Live, “Save the Liver” spoof and played it for guests at home all the time.
Because she demonstrated killing a lobster on Good Morning America in preparation for her Master Chef’s show with Jasper White , PETA protested her upcoming show and it was suggested she do a dish with an already dead crustacean. She announced, “Fuck PETA!” and did it anyway. (Go Julia!)
Julia Child didn’t like Meryl Streep because she, Meryl, protested the use of chemical preservative Alar on apples. “She’s not a scientist!” Julia exclaimed. Little did she know…
Julia and her personal assistant had been scheduled to fly from Boston to Los Angeles on the morning of September 11, 2001, but at the last minute changed their flights due to a taping they had to do for Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Julia never endorsed a commercial product.
Most important of all, through her biography we learn that Julia Child followed her passion with a relentless perfectionism and enjoyed every minute of her life until, in her words she, “Slipped off the raft.”