Episode 29: Julia Child

Julia Child- the iconic and effervescent television personality who brought french cooking to servantless American homes. On television she boldly demonstrated the ease of preparing the foods that she loved.  People have been learning to cook with her since her first cookbook was published in 1961, and her television show, The French Chef hit the airwaves a couple of years later.

Courtesy Lisa Graves Design

Julia in her kitchen in Paris

This is how we think of Julia: stirring and whisking and slicing her way through France. But she was mid life when all of that began- in this episode we talk about her life before she became the face of French cooking in American homes. We chat about her upbringing in Pasadena, CA, her education at Smith College, her early career as a well traveled file clerk, and the romance with Paul Child that really changed her life.

August 15, 2012 would have been Julia’s 100th birthday, and in celebration we sat down to talk about her life, her loves, her adventures, her politics and her food.

Born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in 1912, she grew up in an affluent home, attended private schools and had, what she described as a, "butterfly life."

While serving in the OSS during World War II, Julia met Paul Child. They married and she moved with him to France where he was stationed as a diplomat.

The apartment building in Paris where the couple lived is sort of a foodies mecca even today. People make a point to stand in the doorway of this famed address to have their picture taken.

While in France, Julia fell in love with the country and the food. She attended and graduated from the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. (As it looks today)

After graduation, Julia teamed up with two French friends and began L'Ecole des Trois Gourmandes,( 'The three hearty eaters"), and taught private cooking lessons to American women in Paris. The two asked Julia to consult on a cookbook that they were writing. The next nine years of her life was devoted to writing that book: Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Julia and Paul supported one another both in Europe and America as they were faced with challenges and successes in their lives.

Time Travel With The History Chicks

Our stack of Julia books was rather impressive, and we liked several of them:

This is the one that we would recommend if you want to read just one book about her life.  Her voice will be in your head by the end of the first chapter.

My life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme.

Another complete biography of her life that we can recommend:

Appetite for life by, Noel Riley Fitch

We can’t recommend this one, simply because we didn’t read it (yet). But if you did, drop us a line and let us know what you think.

Dearie by Bob Spitz

If you like reading letters, and like peeking into conversations of women (and you know you do), this one is interesting:

As Always, Julia edited by Joan Reardon. Letters between Julia and Avis Devoto

Of course, you could crack open The Book and cook like Susan (did one night)

Or cook like Beckett (would if she wanted to cook)

The two children’s books that we thought were very charming:

Minette's Feast by Susanna Reich illustrated by, Amy Bates

Bon Appetit: The delicious life of Julia Child by, Jesse Hartland

Julia’s 100th birthday celebration– ooh,nobody throws a party like  the internet!

Archive of American Television Three hour interview, very interesting if you want to hear about her life from Julia herself.

Interview in Coping Magazine about Julia’s experiences with breast cancer in 1965.

Movies…well, there is this one (Also a book, and formerly a blog):

Movie and book- Julie and Julia by Julie Powell (Movie directed by Nora Efron)

The grant giving organization that Julia founded to help her legacy and passion live on through others, The Julia Child Foundation. This site has lots of pictures information and a really interesting timeline that is great for kids.

But if you want a seriously fun website about Julia, go to the kitchen! Her kitchen is preserved at the Smithsonian in, but we can tour it from our living rooms.

Beckett recommended the webcam at Boulangerie Bonneau in Paris : http://www.bonneau.fr/live/ (they don’t make bread on Mondays and Tuesdays)

Finally, if you enchanted by the Lisa Graves illustration of Julia that was created for us, (posted at beginning of this shownote) you really should check out her website: History Witch. Her short and funny highlights of historical women as well as her whimsical illustrations may charm you like they did us.

As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at Music.mevio.com