I just finished Bob Spitz’s delightful biography of Julia Child — Dearie. You may scratch your head when I say it was hard to put down. It was. What a read! And what an amazing story of success.
Julia Carolyn McWilliams was born in 1912 in Pasadena, CA. She attended Smith College and worked for several years as a copywriter in NY. When World War II came along, 6’2″ Julia was too tall for the WAC’s or WAVE’s so she joined the OSS. She was posted in Asia where in 1944 she met Paul Child – a low level career diplomat. They were married in 1946 and Julia followed Paul as he was transferred to Paris where she became bored by the lack of things to do. She took up cooking and attended Le Cordon Bleu — the legendary culinary institute. At the age of 39 she began teaching cooking to American women — in her small Paris flat. And with two colleagues, she began writing a cookbook directed to American housewives. After nearly ten years of writing and at the age of 49, her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published by Knopf. Julia’s star began to soar. A true outlier. . . . .
In 1962, she appeared on Boston’s WGBH — a television program designed for the staid discussion of books. Instead of sitting and talking, Julia arrived with food and paraphernalia (including a one burner tabletop stove) and — much to the consternation of directors — she insisted on cooking an omelette. On camera! The producers feared no one would ever watch WGBH again. Of course, Julia’s appearance had the opposite effect. Her success spawned her own show “The French Chef” and Julia became a household name.
In 2004, Julia passed away at the age of 92. Her kitchen was moved to the Smithsonian where it is on permanent display. Bon appetit!