Monday 15 August 2011

Bon Appetit!

Julia Child took 12 years to write and publish her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  It first appeared in print in 1961 when Julia was almost 50 years old.  How inspiring to see someone succeed later in life!

Julia was born on August 15, 1912 to a privileged California family.  She attended private schools where she excelled at both academics and sports, reaching a height of 6-foot-2-inches in her teens. Julia studied history at college and intended on being a writer, but her unsolicited manuscripts were rejected by the New Yorker and nothing came of her early attempts at writing. 

During World War II, Julia was hired to work for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) and was sent abroad on assignment.  While in China, she met a fellow American named Paul Child and they fell in love, marrying in 1946.  The newlyweds moved to Paris, France two years later where Paul was posted by the Foreign Service. 

It was in Paris that Paul introduced Julia to "haute cuisine".  She enrolled at the famous French cooking school Cordon Bleu.  While studying there she met two women named Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle and the threesome opened a French cooking school called "L'Ecole des Trois Gourmandes".  They also started writing a cookbook with the intent of bringing French cuisine to the American mainstream.  However, it soon became apparent that one of the three women, Louisette, did not pull her weight; even so, her name remained on the cover. 

The cookbook became Julia's "raison d'etre" for the next 12 years as she followed her husband from job post to job post around Europe.  The first publisher that got involved in the book project, Houghton Mifflin, declared that it was far too long and ressembled an encyclopedia rather than a cookbook.  But Julia persevered and found a new publisher Alfred A. Knopf.  The final edition of the book ended up weighing 3 pounds, covered 734 pages and included 524 recipes.  Julia and her fellow authors' attention to detail and helpful drawings were appreciated by their readers.  It is considered to be one of the most influential cookbooks ever published and features such favourites as "boeuf bourgignon", "bouillabaise" and "cassoulet".  Never out of print, it is estimated that at least one million copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking have been sold. 

Julia Child went on to publish almost 20 books.  She starred in a cooking show in the 1960's called "The French Chef".  She wrote many magazine articles and had a regular column in the Boston Globe newspaper.  But the moment that launched her career was the publishing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  So, the next time you cook boeuf bourgignon, think of Julia.  Bon Appetit!

Photo of Julia Child & Master Chef Max Bugnard at Cordon Bleu in Paris courtesy

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