Julia Child: French Cooking for Everyday Americans

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On this last day of March, we would like to dedicate this post to honor Women in World History.

Julia Child, for our family was an important woman as she brings back memories of my childhood passion, cooking and baking, which have now been passed along to my children.

Today, as part of a Multicultural Kids Blog Series we share with you the life of Julia Childs.

Women in World History

We hope you enjoy her story and her legacy as much as we enjoy her recipes!

Bon Appétit!

Growing up I remember watching a TV show called “The French Chef”.  The show would be “running” while my mom was busy in the kitchen making dinner.  The only thing I remember about the show was the funny accent the chef used and her unusually strange voice.  It wasn’t until adulthood when I learned who Julia Child was and watched her story play out on a recent movie made in her honor, Julie & Julia, which helped me fall in love all over again with cooking.  A successful American chef, author and television personality Julia Child’s was responsible for introducing French cuisine to the American public.

Julia Child, born Julia McWilliams was born in Pasadena, California.  Her passion adventure and writing, soon after college became reality when she found herself working in Sri Lanka for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), during the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. It was here, she met Paul Child her future husband.  Paul worked for the State Department and soon after their marriage as relocated from Sri Lanka to France. It was at the oldest restaurant in France, La Couronne where Julia first tried classical French cuisine and fell in love.  Wanting to learn how to cook French cuisine, she enrolled herself in the famous Cordon Bleu, using a GI bill to finance her study. She was the only woman in her class.  She learned French and day-by-day became more and more educated in the art of French cuisine.

Later, she joined a club called Cercle des Gourmettes, and met two French women, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.  The three of them started their own cooking school called L’Ecole des Trois Gourmads, targeted for Americans, with classes where held in Julia’s apartment. During this time, Julia accepted Simone and Louisette’s invitation to co-write a book. As her they needed an American collaborator, Julia was perfectly suited for this project. She spent the next 10 years writing and testing recipes even as she was relocated from Paris to Marseilles to Bonn to Oslo and on to Washington.  Eventually, Bertholle withdrew but both Simone and Julia continued experimenting and writing.  After several publisher rejections, the book was finally picked up and published by Knopf as Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961.  It became a best seller.

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Paul finally retired and they both moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where Julia began a new career in television, introducing French cooking to Americans.  Julia’s “real-life” reactions and mistakes on camera quickly became part of the charm of the show.  Her voice, presence and honesty on The French Chef, helped contribute to its success as many women found they could related to in the kitchen.  The television show won many awards.

In 1968, shortly after her career in television began, Julia was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had a mastectomy.  Paul Child’s health began to deteriorate after several strokes and was later transferred to a nursing home in 1989. He died in 1994. Julia continued her work and published several more cookbooks and often spent the last of her years in her home in Massachusetts and in the Child’s vacation home in France.  In 2001, she closed her Cambridge home and the Smithsonian Institute acquired her kitchen which now exhibited at the National Museum of American History.  Julia died in 2004 from kidney failure.

At her request there was no funeral and her ashes were scattered where Paul’s had been in Santa Barbara and Maine.