Julia Child was an American cooking expert, author, and television. Her cooking show was first aired on February 11, 1963, and ran for ten years. Few individuals in the culinary realm rank higher than Julia Child. With her unbridled passion and a burning zeal for adventurous cooking and teaching, Julia Child re-shaped and re-invented America’s gastronomic culture.
Today, she is best known for her best-selling French cookbooks, TV shows, and her all-around love of cooking. In addition to food and cooking, she also loved wine. We will take a brief yet inspiring journey into Julia Child’s culinary achievements, including soul-enriching meals, tantalizing wine, and an unforgettable legacy.
It all Began in Pasadena
Julia Child was born and raised in Pasadena, California. Before marrying Paul Child and moving to Paris, she had not discovered her purpose in life. In Paris, Child enrolled in the illustrious Cordon Bleu culinary school, where she studied hospitality and culinary arts.
At Cordon Bleu, she befriended two French women, Simone Beck and Louis Bertholle. Following Beck’s recommendation, she joined an exclusive all-women club in Paris known as Le Cercle des Gourmettes. Unknown to Child, her life was about to change monumentally. Child’s culinary career began when some of her American friends in Paris requested her to give them cooking lessons in her Left Bank apartment. Her friends from Cordon Bleu, including Simone, Bertholle, and a few other chefs, helped her with these lessons. These classes gained popularity and was soon called L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes.
After the success of her classes, Child and her friends started working on a French cookbook for Americans. Their book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” received much media attention and praise on its release. It was a cookbook unlike any other, painting detailed descriptions of many tasty recipes in an easy-to-read manner.
An Unprecedented Book
The book was released when the lure of convenient food swayed America. Women were encouraged to adopt TV dinners, canned foods, frozen vegetables, and cake mixes. Misleading advertisements and journalism convinced women that cooking was a thing of the past.
Published in 1961, it was the first book to give specific recipe details and step-by-step processes that made cooking in the home kitchen easy and enjoyable. One can claim that Child’s book influenced how many modern cookbooks are made and recipes are taught today.
Americans had a fair knowledge of French food before Child came into the picture, but she was able to make dishes like coq au vin accessible to average middle-class Americans. She also introduced rare ingredients, like artichokes, to home cooks (all over our menus and kitchens today).
Child became popular when the growing feminist movement was in full swing in America. She promoted her brand of feminism by encouraging women to empower their lives and careers through the art of cooking. She preached kitchen authority, asking women to own their kitchens with pride and power.
She wanted more women in culinary institutions so that they could adopt respectable careers for themselves. She engaged the Culinary Institute of America in a battle of persuasion and reason, convincing them to admit as many women as possible into their professional programs. She also campaigned for society’s adoption of professional women chefs.
A Trail-blazing Cooking Show and a Fearless Disposition to Food
While Child wasn’t the first American chef to appear on television, her show, the French chef, was the first show to gain nationwide coverage. Her exuberant and fearless cooking style, involving copious amounts of wine and large servings of butter and cream, charmed her devoted audience.
Though she faced criticism for her wanton use of butter and cream, Child believed that cooking and dining should be executed with fearless abundance. In her opinion, paying unnecessary attention to nutrition ruins a delicious meal.
She Loved and Adored Wine
Child’s devotion to French cuisine also included wine. “I shall cheerfully die with a bottle of white burgundy in my mouth”, she once quipped, referring to her favourite wine. In a show of love, she served burgundy with a pheasant on her 40th birthday. The culinary star was also fond of sweet wines and relished dessert pairings like; the Château d’Yquem with crème brûlée or Soufflé Grand Marnier. She often ate dinner with wine and occasionally martinis.
During her time in France, she visited vineyards in Bordeaux and took notes on each wine and grape she tasted. She tasted a grape from the end of each row, damning the legal implications. And when she toured Europe and the US, she returned with wine labels and notes of the wines she had sampled. Her love of wine is also seen in her cookbook, where an entire chapter is dedicated to wine.
Julia Child gave America unrestricted access to the culinary styles of French. She showed how to make cooking adventurous and fun-filled. She demonstrated that fancy French meals in restaurants could be recreated at home. She started a revolution that changed how America viewed food and wine forever. And for that, we are grateful.
See more resources here.