Julia Child (born August 15, 1912, as Julia McWilliams), died on Thursday, August 12, 2004, at 91 years of age. She died in her sleep at her home in Santa Barbara, California.
It surprises many (and it surprised me) when I first learned, years ago, that Child was not in fact a French-born chef transplanted to America. Rather, she was an American-born US citizen of Irish descent who, long before mincing her first onion as a professional, worked as a United States intelligence officer. Born in Pasadena, CA, she attended Smith College, graduating in 1934. She later moved to Washington, DC.
After moving to Washington, DC and working in advertising for a few years, World War II began, and she soon joined the Office of Strategic Services (a predecessor to the modern CIA). She was reassigned to US intelligence offices in Ceylon, and China. It was in China that Julia met her husband, Paul Child, a member of the US State Department. Shortly after the war, Paul was reassigned to Paris, and the couple relocated there together. It was in Paris that Child's professional relationship with cuisine began, as she began her studies at Le Cordon Bleu, a renowned Parisian culinary academy.
Paul's location reassignments would later cause the couple to relocate to Marseilles, Bonn, and Oslo, Norway.* These post-Cordon-Bleu travels must surely have broadened Julia Child's culinary talent, exposing her to the differing gastronomic preferences of different areas of Europe.
Her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking would be released in 1961. The book was "groundbreaking for introducing French cooking techniques to a country whose cuisine had been best known for dishes like meatloaf and potatoes."**
Since the beginning of her culinary career, Julia Child has been well known as a food expert, and her distinctive, high-pitched voice has been parodied on Saturday Night Live, and at many a cocktail party when someone wishes to feign mock sophistication. (Well, at least that's what I do). She produced 22 books in her life, all with culinary themes, and has appeared on many TV and radio programs, including and especially her own, which first aired in 1963 at WGBH Boston.
Julia Child has received the following prestigious awards:
Partial List of Books by Julia Child
(Titles are followed by year of publication).
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, 1961
- The French Chef Cookbook, 1968
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 2, 1970
- From Julia Child's Kitchen, 1975
Julia Child and Company, 1978
Julia Child and More Company, 1979
The Way to Cook, 1989
Cooking with the Master Chefs, 1993
- In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs, 1995
Baking with Julia, 1996
Julia's Delicious Little Dinners, 1998
Julia's Casual Dinners, 1998
Julia's Menus for Special Occasions, 1998
American Feast: A Celebration of Cooking on Public Television, 1999
Julia's Breakfasts, Lunches and Suppers, 1999
Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home, 1999
- French Provincial Cooking, 1999
Julia's Kitchen Wisdom, 2000
*Among other places, including Massachusetts. Julia Childs' life seems to have involved nearly-constant travel, though there are certain places toward which she gravitated, specifically, France and California.
**Quote from Reuters report published at:
"Julia Child, Famous Cook, Dies at 91". The Washington Post. Online Edition. 13 Aug 2004.
Child only wrote the introduction for this book.
Awards list and some other info from:
barnesandnoble.com's "Meet the Writers" article on Julia Child, at
Bio for Julia Child at excellent culinary web site, Epicurious: