An American Master

Ok, let’s be real, there is no need for anyone to bring attention to Julia Child. She is beloved by Americans despite the fact that most people don’t know their Boeuf Bourginone from their Steak Au Poivre. As a matter of fact when I bought my very first copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (only Vol 1 btw) at my local Half Price Books the guy at the checkout said that it is the only cookbook they sells realiably, all the others sit there forever but Mastering the Art of French Cooking still flies off the shelf.

That Certain Something

What is it about Julia Child? Her freeness with her splash of wine? Her unusual voice? Is it pure nostalgia? It is not the food… not because its not great, but because very few people have actually made the food in her books. I’ll tell you why she’s on MY list though. I admire her tremendously, and I HAVE made her food. It is good, you should give it a go.

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Young Julia

Julia Child grew up privledged, the daugter of a wealthy influential family, she was not a person who would learn to cook at her Mother’s knee. She played basketball and studied history. Her future as the country’s most influential chef was not exactly set out clearly before her. She went from copywriting to attempting to enlist in the WACs or WAVE’s during WWII. She was denied because at 6’2″, she was too tall. (Imagine that, NOT being allowed into the military because you are toooo physically imposing?!)

She didn’t let her inability to enlist stop her from serving her country. Instead, she began working for the OSS. Times being what they were she joined the typing pool… but due to her fierce intelligence and her education she was moved very quickly into a position as a reserch assistanct. So the woman who brought America Boeuf Bourginon also developed a shark repellant for the US Navy. You know, like you do?!

Becoming a Cook

While in the OSS, Julia Child met the love of her life, Paul Cushing Child. Unlike Julia, he grew up in a family of food lovers and he introduced her to the world of gastronomy. Ok… so here is where it gets even more interesting to me. Here is this fairly accomplished young woman. She has a keen mind, and a fine education. She gets married and discovers that food is actually something that can “open your soul”. Not just that it is yummy and exciting… it opens your soul. That’s what she told the New Your Times about a meal of oysters and Sole Menuire. Many women of her time set about cooking fine meals for their friends and family. She certainly did that… but look at how she went about learning all she could about this new passion. She enrolled at the Cordon Bleu, she took private classes with Max Bugnard.

A Bumpy Road

It wasn’t exactly easy going for her. Julia Child perservered even when her teachers at the Cordon Bleu were not exactly confident in her. As a matter of fact she initally enrolled in the standard “housewife” class. A lot of American women were taking this course. It taught basic skills like boiling eggs and the like. She wasn’t having it. Bored with this simplistic course she insisted on enrolling in a serious culinary program for professionals. The head of the Cordon Bleu at the time had a choice of programs. One for chefs of haute-cuisine or a shabby, understaffed program intended for ex-GI’s. He chose the haute cuisine program believing it would drive Julia away completly. Boy, was he wrong!


Undeterred in his efforts to stop Julia, when the time came for the final exam she was given a test from the housewives class. A test that involved memorizing and regurgitating the course book. She failed it. Unfazed, she took action. She was very fortunate to have stings to pull, and pull them she did. Forcing the school to give her the correct test, and this time she passed it with flying colors.

Redefining American Cooking

Julia Child’s master work. “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” is a comprehensive, easy to follow, easy to understand deep dive into French cooking. She took the mystery out of French cooking and brought it staight into the American kitchen. She repeated this feat by hosting her television programs beginning with her first episode in 1963 and continuing well into the 1990’s.

American women deep in the culture of jello salads and condensed soup casseroles suddenly began to make omlettes, souffles, and sole munier. She introduced French techniques and ingredients to an America that was walking away from its own culinary history. We all learned to love food, splash in some wine and not take our selves too seriously by watching her cook on TV! What better legacy than that?

Books I Recommend

I will earn a small commision on some of the products on this page if you purchase through my link. I have only recommended products I know and love. I have not recieved anything from these companies for free.

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