Today would have been Julia Child’s centennial birthday. The grand dame of American cooking died in August 2004, but her impact continues to be felt.
She has long since passed into legend, so it’s easy to forget that she was not only a phenomenal cook and teacher, she also had a flair for writing that was unusual for her time. Before New Journalism took hold of food writing, she and contemporaries such as James Beard and Craig Claiborne were making fine cooking at home a more approachable, less intimidating task.
Julia, I think, was most effective because she hid none of her flaws in the glare of television. She didn’t start her cooking career until her late 30s, a fact that made her even more endearing and real. But the glare of television and the enormity of her culinary celebrity obscured the fact that her writings - especially her landmark cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” - were as simple, direct and easy to digest as her beloved French food. Every word shows how diligent and meticulous she was in getting every flavor just right so it could be enjoyed in her reader’s home. She was expert yet not overwhelming. Her words had visual flourishes that bespoke someone who lived to find new flavors. Curiosity dripped from the pages. The happiness she enjoyed from tasting, from the task of cooking and then seeing the reaction of her guests were as elemental to her as salt and pepper. Even more rare, she was equally as brilliant with the spoken word as she was with the pen. For some reason, when Julia said things, they had a special resonance. Eight years after her passing, they only grow in stature.
Here now is a collection of her most savory words about life, love and cooking.