Thursday, July 9, 2009

More on Julia Child than you ever wanted to know

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2009 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge Julia_Childfull.jpg

In addition to having one of the better articles explaining the fall of AIG, Vanity Fair's August edition also has a refresher biography about the life of Julia Child, who's being portrayed by Meryl Streep in the upcoming Julie & Julia.

Child's life has been well-documented by multiple biographers but she remains an enigma, which makes sense considering that she spent several years as a spy in the Office of Strategic Services. The article attempts to explain what Julia meant to America's cooks:

America's First Lady is not always the president's wife, though she does

tend to be tall and tireless, and has in the past come from Wasp stock.

The 20th century can count three such women, all of whom were

cheerfully generous in the spotlight and wholly dedicated to causes

that were democratic in character ... The first was

Emily Post, the author of 1922's Etiquette ... The second was Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and a moral beacon through the 40s

and 50s. When Post died, in 1960, and Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1962, it

was not the svelte and sloe-eyed Jacqueline Kennedy who moved into this

matriarchal role -- she was too young, too shy, too feathery, too

fashionable. It was Julia Child, just turned 50.

Child is portrayed as someone who felt out of place during the early part of her life.

Child was 6'2" with broad shoulders, and that defined a large part of

her adolescence. "In school plays Julia was always cast as the man or

an animal ... never the princess."

Her love life is often

presented as non-existent before she met her husband Paul Child (who

thought her a for-sure virgin) but she'd gone on dates and had "crushes" and had been proposed to in 1941.   

Her first forays into cooking were less successful than her love life:

She never forgot the first meal she'd made for her new husband: calves'

brains simmered in red wine. It was "messy to look at," she later

wrote, "and not very good to eat." She had 25 cookbooks but no

technique, and she wasn't what anyone would call a natural. Yet Paul

had lit the pilot light, and in Paris -- wooomf -- the flame.

But

for all the biographies and profiles on Child, the article admits the

best way to get to know Julia -- to peer into her soul -- is to read

her chef d'oeuvre Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Jacques

Pépin said he read it like a novel. Child poured her heart

and soul into it for seven years. It's also the impetus for Julie & Julia, when the Julie character tries to make all of its recipes in one year.

One more thing. During all those years on The French Chef

when she'd end the show with a glass of wine and a toast, the wine was

really Gravy Master mixed with water. Some things are better left

unknown.

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