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Julia Child Turns 100!

Posted Monday, August 6, 2012 by

 

One-Hundred Years in the Making:  A Julia Child Tribute

 

"I was 32 when I started cooking; until then I just ate." -Julia Child

 

It's hard to put in words how this culinary icon has changed cooking for so many Americans.  What she taught us and how she communicated was so simple.  A career-driven woman before her time, Julia Child believed in using the freshest of ingredients in her recipes and fought against the growing popularity of TV dinners, Jell-O, and Wonder Bread of the 1950s.  Before the Food Network, Cooking Chanel and today's celebrity chefs, Julia Child was entertaining readers and viewers with her down-to-earth and humorous ways. By taking what seemed complex and overwhelming and translating it so that the everyday cook could bring home intricate French cuisine, Julia was a true culinary pioneer.

Julia McWilliams was born into a wealthy family in Pasadena, California in 1912.   She was the oldest, and tallest, of three children. Although the McWilliams family employed a cook, it was only on Cook's night off did Julia's mother prepare dinner.  Thankfully, Julia did not inherit her mother's cooking ability, as she only knew how to prepare three things:  biscuits, codfish balls, and Welsh rabbit.

After completing her degree at Smith College, Julia tried to enlist her size twelve feet in the military, but was turned down because she was considered too tall.  A new government agency called the Office of Strategic Services, the OSS, saw something in those large feet and employed her as a spy during World War II where they moved her to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to help develop a shark repellant.  This project was supposed to keep sharks away from underwater explosives meant for enemy ships.

It was here in Ceylon that Julia met her future husband, Paul Child.  They moved back to the U.S. and were married.  Shortly after, Paul got transferred to the American embassy in Paris and it was here that Julia was introduced to the French cuisine she loved.  Her first French meal of sole meuniere, oysters, and baguette was "an opening of the soul and spirit" and with the love and support of her husband, fueled a lifetime of passion for cooking. 

She was inspired to attend the culinary school Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and after graduating, opened up a school of her own called Ecole Des 3 Gourmandes (School of the 3 Hearty Eaters) with two of her friends Simca Beck and Louisette Bertholle; whose cookbook was just rejected by their publisher. Julia suggested explaining the recipes' methods more clearly and substituting American ingredients for the hard-to-find French.  After many rewrites and a move back to America for Julia, the Three Hearty Eaters sparked the interest of a new editor in New York, Judith Jones. Judith thought the original title, French Recipes for American Cooks, was just horrid and together they brainstormed new ideas like:  French Cooking for the American Supermarket, French Magician in the Kitchen, and French Kitchen Pleasure.  Thankfully, Judith came up with Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  At a remarkable 734 pages, and ten years of work, Julia's book finally got published in 1961.

The style of writing in Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a first- where recipes were written clearly and understandably with images drawn from the cook's perspective.  Taken for granted with today's cookbook standards, these techniques were ground breaking.  Julia went ahead and wrote ten more cookbooks, a memoir, and starred in the well-known PBS television cooking show: The French Chef

Maine held a special place in Julia Child's heart for she spent many summers in Bass Harbor, along the quiet side of Mt. Desert Island near Acadia National Park.  We invite you to join us at the York Harbor Inn in York Harbor, Maine to celebrate her legacy and what would have been her 100th birthday.   Starting Monday, August 6th through Sunday, August 12th we join America's top 100 restaurants nationwide in Julia Child Restaurant Week.  Executive Chef Gerry Bonsey, CEC, AAC and his talented kitchen crew are using some of Julia Child's own recipes for a special dinner offering.  Pay tribute to Julia yourself with our Duck l'Orange, Tomatoes Provencal and Cauliflower au Gratin.  Everyone who orders the Julia Child special will be entered into a raffle to win the newest book to hit the shelves by Bob Spitz called Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child.   Reservations are not necessary, so come on over to Southern France, we mean, Southern Maine and eat well with us.

With shiny stiff peaks and a tad more butter, we bid you Bon Appétit.  Happy Birthday, Julia Child!

The Innkeepers' Daughters,

Becky and Jessica

Becky and Jessica post weekly articles on food and travel for their blog The Innkeeper's Daughters and can be found at www.innkeepersdaughters.com 

Resources:

Bon Appétit!  The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland

From Julia Child's Kitchen by Julia Child

 

 

Julia Child 100th Birthday

 

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