Today is Julia Child's 100th birthday. To commemorate that, here's a piece I wrote in a newsletter from earlier in the year.
This year marks the 100thanniversary of the birth of one of the most influential food personalities who ever lived—the one who really started what would eventually give rise to celebrity chefs, The Food Network and foodies everywhere.
Julia Child was born on August 15, 1912 and went on to live a life that in many ways, only she could have.
During World War II, she worked for the Office of Strategic Services (which would later become the CIA) and worked her way up to a position that put her in control of top secret and highly sensitive documents. She also was part of a team who invented a shark repellent that is still used today by the US Navy. It was while working with the OSS that she met Paul Child. They were married on September 1, 1946 in Lumberville, PA—here in Bucks County.
She attended the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris where her love of French cooking took flight. Working with 2 friends, she wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking specifically to introduce that cuisine to Americans. Published in 1961, it was critically acclaimed and became a best-seller. It also catapulted the energetic Child to national fame by leading her to television.
In 1963, Julia began an 11 year run as host of The French Chef, the first cooking show to gain popularity in this country. Her expertise, exuberance, humor, passion and that distinctive voice earned her a huge following as well as a Peabody Award and 3 Emmys. It also solidified her as an icon in pop culture.
She was the inspiration for the Muppets’ Swedish Chef and a character called “Julia Grownup” on the PBS kids' show, The Electric Company. Who can forget Dan Ackroyd’s hilarious send-up of Julia on Saturday Night Live? It’s said that Julia thought his bit was so funny, that she showed it at parties. In 2002, her kitchen was displayed as an exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington. That same year, she inspired a bored blogger to start the “Julie/Julia Project”, which led to the popular movie, Julie & Julia in 2009.
Her success, influence, 13 television programs and 18 books gained her many awards including the French Legion of Honor in 2000 for her services to French culinary arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003.
So Happy 100thBirthday to Julia Child! Her spirit and love of food live on in foodies around the world. I’ll end with a quote from Julia that I just found that epitomizes her tell-it-like-it-is attitude:
“People who are not interested in food always seem rather dry and unloving and don’t have a real gusto for life.”
That certainly doesn’t describe her!