Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Julia Child!

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Happy Birthday, Julia!  August 15 would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday.  An American icon, Julia Child is credited with starting the public conversation about food, a conversation that continues today in so many ways, including professional food writing and the Food Network.  Her original goal was to teach Americans how to cook French food.  When she wrote her culinary masterpiece "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in 1961, most home cooks had never attempted to make French food at home.  Julia was out to change all that.  She was the one who introduced French cooking to all of us and made it accessible in our home kitchens.  She was the original television cooking teacher many years before the Food Network began.  And she was teaching us about kitchen skills many years before Martha Stewart began writing books on the domestic arts.  She was a true original and for that alone we can celebrate her birthday and say thank you, Julia, for giving us so much culinary inspiration.

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Her book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was very important to many of us.  It had a great impact on my life because it was the book that taught me how to cook.  Fresh out of college and newly married I read this book cover to cover and learned how to cook French food. Along the way I also sought out more basic cookbooks like "Better Homes and Gardens" and "The Joy of Cooking." But French food was what I was really interested in.  And Julia's recipes were so instructive and detailed that there was no way to fail.  I will never forget my first Quiche Lorraine or Boeuf Bourguignon.   Those early dinner parties almost always featured French food.

And there was so much more to love about the book.  There was Julia's own story about how she came to France and learned how to cook French food.  Her story was inspiring; it was about finding her passion and taking steps to make it a reality.  We could all learn from this.  She took classes at the prestigious Cordon Bleu cooking school in France and founded a cooking school in Paris.  Growing up in Pasadena in the fifties, Julia had never tasted French food before she lived in France.  When she married Paul Child and they moved to Paris, the food was a revelation to her.  She fell in love with it.  She decided to master French cooking herself, learning everything she could and then share her knowledge with others.  And so her book was born, followed by many others, as well as her iconic television show "The French Chef."

Meryl Streep as Julia Child in the film "Julie and Julia"
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Many people are celebrating the occasion of her birthday by making something from one of her cookbooks this week. There are so many great dishes to choose from.  I would probably celebrate the occasion with a Quiche Lorraine since it is one of the very first things I made from her "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."  I also loved her Coq au Vin.  I have fond memories of her French Potato Salad and her Gratin Dauphinois (potato gratin).  Her Salade Nicoise would be perfect for a summer lunch.   And for dessert I would love to make her Chocolate Mousse or Tarte Tatin.  

How about you?  Were Julia Child's cookbooks and television shows a part of your life and do you have favorite recipes from her books?

Julia passed away two days before her 92nd birthday.  Her last meal was homemade French onion soup.  Julia, you are one of the stars of the culinary world and had a great impact on so many of us.  Happy, happy birthday!  Go here to learn more about Julia Child's life on her 100th birthday. 

Bon Appetit! 


  1. Sunday, I caught a portion of an interview with Bob Spitz, author of "Dearie, The Remarkable Life of Julia Child" this morning. It sounds like a fascinating book; and, I believe it was approved by her prior to her death.

    She was amazing. As a young wife I watched her on PBS each afternoon. I remember sitting in front of the TV taking notes. She gave me the courage to take chances in the kitchen. The first recipe I tried was with "monkfish". Gosh, I didn't even know such a fish existed. "The Joy of Cooking" was always my go to cookbook. I still have my old copy rubber banded together.

    Thanks for a wonderful post honoring the woman who taught a generation to cook.

  2. Sunday,

    I am a huge fan of Julia Child! I love her wit, her sense of humor, and her recipes.

    Happ birthday Julia!

  3. I received her cookbook as a wedding gift when I was 20! Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon were also my staple early dinner party dishes, with a simple salad and her vinaigrette, and of course a crusty baguette. They could be made the night before, sit in the refrigerator while I was in school or working, and served the next night for dinner - perfection, and only improved with the overnight wait. Did anyone ever make her baked sauerkraut and sausage dish? It was amazing!
    Thanks for this post - reminds me of so much. Going to make some of her dishes when the weather cools down some.
    Happy Birthday Julia - wherever you are.

  4. You're right, she truly was the original. She was a homemaker learning to cook who became a success, even before Martha. Even though she was mastering French cooking I love her basic belief of a simple meal made with great care and the best possible ingredients.

  5. Julia's one of my favs. When she teamed up with Jacques Pepin, they were unbeatable and very kind to one another. Thanks for featuring her.

  6. I have a 70s edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking that I think I bought at a charity book sale the year Paul and I moved in together. I've never had a disappointing meal from it and I use the foundation recipes all the time. Along with a 1950 Betty Crocker, Mastering the Art of French Cooking is my go-to manual for great basics.

    I grew up watching Julia Child on TV every weekend along with The Frugal Gourmet, Justin Wilson, This Old House, The New Yankee Workshop and Masterpiece Theatre. Our television was permanently set on PBS. I don't even know what cooking shows are on now, but they couldn't possibly be as good as Julia Child's (or Justin Wilson's).

  7. I've never cooked anything from Child's cookbooks, but I am very inspired by her life story. I love that she was so passionate and fearless in achieving her goals - and that she had a sense of humor and didn't take herself too seriously. She was really remarkable!

  8. Julia child is not such a well known name in the UK, but I would like to see the film as I've heard it's very good. I noticed that the Google design was a tribute to Julia Child the other day, too.