This August 15 would have marked the 100th birthday of the late great Julia Child. Around the country restaurants and individuals alike are celebrating the life and legacy of this great woman. She was more than just the woman who taught us to cook French food. Her greater achievement perhaps was the reintroduction of the joy of cooking to an America that was being sucked into a vortex of fast, easy and convenient. Her delightful nonchalance, infectious laugh, breathless warble and certainly her unusual height made her unforgettable. As for me, she represents everything I have ever strived for and worked toward, not just as a chef, but as a woman.
Julia McWilliams was not born a chef and foodie. In fact, she did not arrive at her passion until well into her 30’s. “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.” Her discovery of good food and wine was directly a result of having met the love of her life, Paul Child. Not unlike Julia, I did not particulary have an affinity for food and cooking until I met the love of my life, Jeff. Our courtship revolved around him taking me to new restaurants of various ethnicities and showing me that food wasn’t taboo. It was an opportunity to learn something and to experience a social experience unlike any other.
Julia became a Francophile as a result of her introduction to food and her lifelong mission was to teach people not only of the virtues of French cooking, but to appreciate French sensibilities of life, love, good food, good company and passion. To her, the greatest things in life were the company of good friends around a fantastic and carefully prepared meal. “In France, cooking is an art form and a national sport.” I was a Francophile prior to my introduction to cooking. I have always had a passion for the language and the culture and in fact got one of my two bachelor’s degrees in French. Having spent 6 months in Paris for my Sophomore year study abroad, I understand the infatuation Julia had with the city and the country in general. There is something you simply cannot explain to those who have not been there. Some kind of warmth, like a passionate embrace that envelopes you the moment you step out onto the Parisian streets.
Julia’s foray into the world of television was really a case of being in the right place at the right time. Not necessarily her ultimate goal. That being said, she was nothing if not a natural. Not a beautiful woman by any means, in fact, in many ways she was quite awkward and gangly at 6 feet 2 inches in height. But she had that je ne sais quoi. That IT factor that you so often hear people talk about. She was quick witted, funny, unashamed of her imperfections and down to earth. People could relate to her and weren’t intimidated by her. If she could do it, then there was no reason why you or I couldn’t do it. “Find something you are passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” Her passion for what she did was evident even until her later years in life when her health began to fail. Everyone who met her was instantly enthralled by her. Her charisma was infectious to say the least.
And always with her was her partner in crime. Her best friend and lover. The butter to her bread. Paul. I think it was truly one of the great partnerships in history. One that I believe inspires me and Jeff to do what we do every day. Nothing in life is worth much if you cannot do it besides the one you love. “The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they’re right if you love to be with them all of the time.”
Dear Julia. Happy birthday. Thank you for your inspiration, your guidance and your honesty. Myself and many of us will forever remember you fondly. I will leave you with a couple of my favorite Julia quotes and a reminder that no matter what might go wrong in the kitchen, always think to yourself, what would Julia do?
“Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
“How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like kleenex.”
“The best way to execute french cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit.”
Bon appetit Julia!
Love, Mini Julia