Today we are talking about a gal called “our lady of the ladle” She peppered our TV screens from her kitchen and reached ours. She added spice to our lives and french flavors to our cooking. This a-steamed gal, cooked her way into our hearts for generations. Today we’re going to let the cooking puns boil over and talk about the life and legacy of Your Gal, Julia Child.
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ROMAINE CALM: Cooking puns have taken over this post. They are highlighted for your amuse-mint.
Julia Child was just a bun in the oven before August 15, 1912. Born in Pasadena, California as Julia Carolyn McWilliams. Her mother was Julia Carolyn Weston and her father was John McWilliams, Jr. Julia had two younger siblings, a brother and a sister. There were like peas in a pod.
This tall bean sprout, played sports as a kid including tennis, golf, and basketball and continued to play sports while attending Smith College, from which she graduated in 1934. Julia’s family had a cook, so even though she loved to eat, she wasn’t egg-posed to cooking…yet. After Julia graduated from college, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of W. & J. Sloane. At one point she wanted to be a novelist.
Julia volunteered at the American Red Cross and the Aircraft Warning Services in California while awaiting application approval for the war department. Julia’s first choice was to enlist in the Women’s Army Corp but she at 6′ 2″ she was too tall. You dim sum. You lose sum.
Julia started at the Office of War Info, in Washington D.C. as a Senior Typist. There she “typed over 10,000 little white cards” of personal contact information and chain of command. Seemingly not finding that apeeling that she put in a transfer to the OSS.
The OSS was the precursor to the CIA. It was established in 1942 and they did research, and special operations that the FBI, Army or Navy was not already assigned to.
With a can do attitude, Julie worked up from Senior Typist to Senior Clerk in the Emergency Rescue Department. There she worked on a committee research on creating a shark repellent. In the midst of WW2, numerous reports came in of shark attacks to Navy officers but also to equipment. A repellent was needed not only for safety but to boost morale. It was kind of a big dill.
In an interview with Betty McIntosh for her book Sisterhood of Spies, Julia said this about her time with shark repellent and the ERD, “I must say we had lots of fun. We designed rescue kits and other agent paraphernalia.”
The CIA lists the search for “recipe of Shark Repellent” like this: “After trying over 100 different substances – including common poisons – the researchers found several promising possibilities: extracts from decayed shark meat, organic acids, and several copper salts…After a year of field tests, the most effective repellent was copper acetate.”
Julia was stirring up accolades in 1944. A request was sent in to promote her to registry, “This request is based on increased responsibility. Miss McWilliams is being trained for overseas duty.” Julia was sent to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and then to Chungking, China.
In China she was awarded the Emblem of Meritorious Civilian Service.
Also while stationed in Ceylon and again in China Julia met fellow OSS employee Paul Child. He would become her main squeeze. They would marry in 1956.
When the war was over the OSS was toast. Her last day, according to war records, was Dec 7, 1945.
“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.”
― Julia Child
We donut know what Julia would have done if Paul had introduced her to the rich flavors of cuisine. Julia was always interested in food, but after her first meal in Rouen, France, she described a meal as “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.” She found a way to expresso herself and decided to plunge into the world of French cooking.
In Paris, she attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. She was not the first woman to attend the school. The school was hatched from Marthe Distel who started Le Cordon Bleu as a magazine in 1895. (Kate has a slice more info about Le Cordon Bleu’s origins in the podcast, including this great history From Leslie Banister )
Julia joined the women’s cooking club Le Cercle des Gourmettes. She met Simone Beck, who was writing a French cookbook for Americans with her friend Louisette Bertholle. Simone proposed that Julia work with them, to make the book apeel to Americans.
In 1951, Julia, Simone, and Louisette began to teach cooking to American women in Julia’s Paris kitchen, calling their informal school The School of the Three Food Lovers.
In 1961 Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published.
In 1963 Julia got her first TV show The French Chef after appearing on a Boston book review show where she showed her egg-pert skills at cooking an omelette. Julia showcased how easy and inexpensive it was to cook French food at home. At the time, Americans viewed French food as expensive restaurant food. Her show helped boost the popularity of French food in America and showed people the power of cooking on television.
Julia became a roll model for American households and housewives. Because of the technology in the 1960s, the show was unedited, causing her blunders to appear in the final version and ultimately lend “authenticity and approach-ability to television.”
With her various shows, books, and TV specials Julia taught all of us to take whisks, to celebrate the good thymes and ap-peach-iate the many flavors of the world.
In 2001, Julia moved to a retirement community and donated her house and office to Smith College. She donated her kitchen to the National Museum of American History, where it is now on display. Video tour.
On August 13, 2004, Julia died of kidney failure in Montecito, California, two days before her 92nd birthday. It is noted that her last meal was French onion soup.
Julia ended her last book, My Life in France, with “… thinking back on it now reminds that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite – toujours bon appétit!”
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ABOUT YOUR GAL FRIDAY
Your Gal Friday is a weekly podcast with supplemental video and article profiling and amazing gal of our galaxy that we can all learn from. Each month your hosts Kate Chaplin & Phoebe Frear talk about the life and legacy about a gal in the subjects of art, history, science and culture.
Your Gal Friday also ties into Gal’s Guide school outreach. Gal’s Guide offers a K-University presentations of Women You Didn’t Learn About in School. Showcasing 14-26 amazing gals to classrooms and assemblies, the presentations spotlight these gals where the podcast goes more in depth of your new favorite gals every Friday.