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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

There are immediate memories that come to mind when we think of Julia Child’s public persona — tall, high–pitched voice, iconic cooking teacher, mentor to hundreds of thousands home cooks, trailblazer for cooking on television and the person responsible for making French cooking techniques and recipes accessible to millions of Americans.

In Food for Thought, we have the opportunity to give you insight into her persona by sharing with you memories from food luminaries, personal friends and those who worked with her and for her during her lifetime. We know these insights will truly give you Food for Thought and add another dimension to your experience of Julia Child and we thank them for sharing these memories with us.

Shirly Collins and JuliaShirley Collins, Founder of Sur La Table

My Julia memory was when Julia sat at our table at Sur La Table which she would do many times but this time she was there because I was cooking breakfast for her — scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, toast and coffee. She was signing her books for customers that morning but before that began we set the table in the middle of the store and ate with Julia and Paul. It was such a pleasure to cook for those great people and for all the other wonderful people at that table that morning.

After breakfast, we opened to a line of her fans waiting to meet her and for the signing to begin.

 

Jacques Pepin, The Apprentice, 2003, Author, Chef, TV HostJacques Pepin and Julia

Thanks to my TV connections and my friendship with Julia, I was able to play a supporting role in the creation of one of America’s classic comic routines. I was in Boston promoting La Methode and flew from there to Los Angeles to appear with Julia on Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow Show. We had only 5 minutes before airtime and Julia grabbed the trusty — and extremely sharp — seven–inch–long chef’s knife that I always carried with me when I traveled, and she began slicing a shallot. Midway through, she cut herself, almost severing the end of her index finger.

With the director counting down the seconds till we were on the air, we pushed the loose piece of flesh back over the cut. Julia hastily wrapped her bloody hand in a towel and proclaimed herself fine. Then she calmed Tom down and told him not to worry, that we would be cooking together and she’d just use one hand. Nobody would know, she assured him, so it would be best not to mention the injury at all.

Suddenly we were live! Julia, six feet two or three inches, in the center, Tom, nearly six feet seven inches, on one side, and me, looking like a hobbit, on the other. Tom, immediately said to the audience, “Julia, would you mind if I told people that you just cut your finger?” Well, there was no hiding it anymore. We had a great show; we cooked, tasted, kidded around. That was the inspiration for Dan Aykroyd’s famous spoof on Saturday Night Live.

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin ©2003

Stephanie Hersh, Executive Personal Assistant to Julia ChildStephanie Hersh and Julia

My most special remembrance of Julia was the way that Julia Child never did things by halves. She was always infectiously passionate about her undertakings, and had a positive and upbeat approach to life and all it had to offer. Julia was fun loving, and her mischievous nature usually meant that everyone around her was in for a good time too.

One of my fondest memories of Julia is from the summer of 1993. We went down to Cape Cod in August for the “Boston Pops by the Sea” on the Hyannis Village Green. Henry Ellis Dickson was conducting the evening’s concert, but Julia had been asked to be the “guest conductor” for the grand finale song of John Philip Sousa’s “Washington Post March” and she had accepted the invitation with great pleasure.

Just before leaving the house at 103 Irving Street to head down to the Cape, Julia, flashed her usual impish smile. “I don’t want to use a baton to conduct the orchestra,” she said. “Let’s use this instead!” She handed a large wooden spoon to me. “And, let’s make it a surprise — don’t let them see it until I am ready to use it!”

While it isn’t easy to conceal a 30” spoon, we did manage. Julia chatted with the organizers, distracting them long enough for me to tuck the spoon under the podium. The concert was great fun, but the roars of laughter and the exuberant cheers of the crowd as 80–year–old Julia declined the baton and reached under the podium to pull out her conducting spoon still rings in my ears.

She swirled that spoon around, magically mixing the sounds of the orchestra. It was brilliant, and so was she.

Art Smith, restaurateur, author, and former chef to Oprah Winfrey

When Oprah moved to Montecito I had the honor to spend time with Ms. Child. What I remember so fondly of her is her love of delicious simple well prepared foods.

I made her a simple tomato pie and it was as if some great French Chef had made it for her. She loved and embraced it the same. Julia was authentic and loved foods that were authentic.

Geoffrey Drummond, Executive Producer Julia Child's TV shows, 1990-2000

Rather than share a specific moment, or event, of which there were so many memorable ones, one theme I keep coming back to in remembering Julia was the great pleasure she took in eating...and especially eating a really well cooked and presented meal. So often, we’d attend events like the James Beard Awards, and spend the hour or so afterwards walking the food hall, being handed a myriad of tastes and tidbits prepared by America’s top chefs. And Julia always accepted them graciously, would take a nano–taste from the dish offered, gush appropriately (and not necessarily insincerely) and move on. After about an hour or so, she’d pull on my arm, and say, “Do you think Sirio is still at Le Cirque?” And off we’d go, for a proper i.e., sit–down dinner (with Sirio) and perhaps Thomas or Susie or Jasper happily joining us at the table.

Julia had amazing stamina, especially when it came to eating a great meal. She loved to recall her last meal at The French Laundry, in great joyful detail, and she would often ask me to run through the perfect dinner Michel Richard prepared for her at Citrus (and I was lucky enough to be there) of a simple perfectly roasted chicken (with Foie Gras stuffing), accompanied by the perfect ’85 Richebourg.

Right into 2004, when I’d come out to the Casa to visit her, I’d stop at Spago or La Brea Bakery on my way up to Santa Barbara and Nancy or Wolfgang and Sherry would prepare a fabulous “take–out” lunch to bring up to Julia. When I’d arrive — carrying so much I’d have to kick/knock on the door rather than ring the bell, and announce the contents, Julia’s face lit up with a big smile, and she’d go through every item. Often, she would start with a pastry tasting, and then move on to the proper meal, always sitting at a set table.

She loved eating but I think even more so, she had such a deep and warm appreciation for all the love her friends put into preparing her favorite foods for her. You could tell — there was always that great, warm, natural Julia smile, probably the same one that she’s had since being a little girl in Pasadena.

Thomas Keller, The French Laundry

Julia was unflappable! She always had a gentle wit and made the best of each situation. I remember one particular evening at the Campton Place Hotel in San Francisco. We were having dinner together and she was seated next to the General Manager of the Hotel. As we began to toast in celebration of the moment, she inadvertently tipped the contents of her Champagne glass onto the lap of the poor man. The stunned look on his face was priceless! But Julia’s response was even more precious. She quickly said, “Oh, it looks like I’m out of Champagne...I need more Champagne.” Of course the waiter came over and poured more Champagne, so she could continue the toast. It was one of the many wonderful moments that I had the good fortune to share with her — and an equally unforgettable one for the GM, I’m sure!

Julia was warm and unique and just lovely to be around. To me, her most important talent was her ability to teach and inspire generations of viewers to be adventurous and confident in the kitchen. It is something we are all indebted to her for, both amateur and professional chefs alike.

Kathie Alex, Owner of Cooking with Friends in France, a cooking school in Domaine de Bramafam, Julia Child's former Provence kitchen

My remembrances of Julia are many but being in the special place is the crème de la crème!

Sara Moulton, Former associate chef on Julia Child's PBS show, “Julia Child & More Company”, host of PBS’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and on air food editor for Good Morning America

What Would Julia Do?

One day in the late Nineties I was eating lunch with Julia and a thousand or so others in the ballroom of a convention center in Philadelphia as part of that year’s conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. The red–hot topic of the day was fat. Every single kind of it was bad — mono, poly, saturated — and it was up to us culinary professionals to spread the good word about eliminating it from our contemporary diets. No one was talking about calories that year. Suddenly the enemy was fat fat fat.

There was a speaker at the head of the room pontificating to this effect when Julia raised her hand, stood up, and spoke out. “But I just don’t understand,” she said in her trademark warble. “What is so wrong with butter? I just love butter.”

I was ready to hide under the table, but Julia just charged ahead. This was, of course, an issue of real moral weight to her. As much as that roomful of culinarians hated fat, Julia loved butter. It is built into the DNA of French cuisine, and Julia was nothing if not a devotee of French cuisine. To Julia, an attack on butter was terribly wrong–headed. Are you really interested in health? Then take pleasure in your food — including butter — dammit.

She really was rowing against the tide that day, but she was after all Julia Child, so she could say whatever she wanted. More to the point, her own life was all the evidence she needed of the correctness of her thinking. She ended up dying just two days short of her 92nd birthday, and denied herself very little along the way. Her motto right along was “Everything in moderation,” and she put as much emphasis on the first word as on the third. If we followed her lead, the whole country would be happier and healthier today.

Barbara Haber, Food historian and former curator of books at Harvard's Schlesinger Library

People are aware that Julia had a great palate, a strong sense of taste that served her well during her long and illustrious career. Her love of food, after all, is what set her on the course that brought her such satisfaction and the rest of us such pleasure as we learned from this engaging and very funny teacher. It should come as no great surprise then that Julia also had a keen sense of smell. This was brought home to me one day when I was picking her up from her home in Cambridge to go to a luncheon where Hillary Clinton, who was campaigning for Bill’s first run for president, was the speaker. When Julia approached my car, she threw her head back, took a deep breath, then smiled broadly and said, “Ah, skunk. This brings me back to my childhood in California.”

I was utterly astonished and had to think hard before remembering that — the day before — my next door neighbor had told me that her dog got into an altercation with a skunk, and as we all know, the skunk always wins. My neighbor said she had spent the day soaking her pet in tomato juice in an attempt to get rid of the skunk smell. I detected no remaining smell, and was grateful for the escape, and immediately forgot about the incident. That is, until Julia got all rhapsodic and nostalgic over the eau de skunk that she had picked up from my car, a fragrance that had brought her back to her early outdoor life so long before.

Amanda Hesser, Co-founder of Food52.com

When I was a cooking student in France, I was assigned to pick Julia up from the airport in Paris and drive her to Dijon. She had her heart set on us having lunch at a one-star restaurant that she’d dog–eared in the Michelin guide. But when we reached the restaurant, it was shuttered. Crestfallen, she was quiet for a few moments, then charged forth down the street until we came across a cafe that looked satisfactory to her. In place of our fancy one–star meal, we had oeufs mayonnaise and beer, which seemed so natural, so right.

Kim Yorio, CEO & Founder, YC MEDIA

When I was on the Baking with Julia book tour in 1996, I booked a 12–hour a day schedule for three weeks. At the time Julia was 84 and suffered from serious knee pain but also was up for everything we asked her to do.

At one point the only way to make a book event in Toronto was to take a private plane from New York City. I had never chartered a plane before so I explained what I needed and shared my meager budget. After waiting almost 2 hours at Teterboro (watching very big luxurious jets taking off and landing) a three–seater propeller plane rolled up to take us. Literally the plane was the size of the Smart Car! I looked at Julia and apologized profusely. We’d have to wait another two hours for a more appropriate plane — I mean this was so small that you climbed on to the wing to get into it! She looked at me and said, “Don’t worry Dearie, just give me a boost up from behind, I’m sure I’ll be able to squeeze myself in there!”

Joan Nathan, author of ten cookbooks including Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France Joan Nathan and Julia

I first met Julia in the mid–70s when my husband Allan and I were living in Cambridge. At the time I was studying at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. When the Mexican cookbook writer, Diana Kennedy, came to Boston, she asked me to take her to an appearance on ABC.

Star–struck, I picked her up at Julia’s where she was staying. Julia could not have been more gracious and gave me an autographed copy of The French Chef. For the last thirty years of her life we were friends: she showed up at a tour of Jewish Philadelphia I was giving for the IACP, we went out for many meals together, she appeared on my own PBS TV series Jewish Cooking in America and filmed a few episodes of her show at my house, and most of all, we spent many hours on the phone gossiping, something she dearly loved.

For Julia’s 90th birthday and the opening of her kitchen at the Smithsonian American History Museum, I threw a small dinner party for her. It was midsummer and I cooked the meal with my son David, who at the time was about 16. We decided that for this meal for 30 we would make simple American food. David took some fresh figs and squash blossoms and filled them with goat cheese as an hors d’oeuvre. I made my health bread, with mixed heirloom tomatoes and lots of basil, salmon with preserved lemon and za’atar, and corn with pesto. The dessert was an apricot cobbler with lots of ice cream as well as Ann Amernick’s chocolate cake decorated with all of the covers of Julia’s books. Julia taught me the art of simplicity and just being oneself, lessons that have guided me through many subsequent dinner parties!

Denise Vivaldo, Founder, Denise Vivaldo Group

I’ve been blessed to meet Julia Child, thrilled to eat with her, and honored to work with her. She was one of the most honest women I ever met. Julia was so funny but not necessarily intentionally; it was just the way her words came out.

When I put out my hand to introduce myself the very first time, I said, “Hello, I’m Denise from Los Angeles,” and she replied “I’m Julia from Pasadena.” And when she asked me what I did, I said “I’m a food stylist.” Her response, “Oh dearie, I don’t like most food stylists, they muck around with the food! Do you muck around with the food?” I ducked my head, ordered more champagne and didn’t make eye contact with her bright baby blues.

Like thousands of women who have a career in the food industry today, she influenced me. She taught me. I adored and admired her.

I first met Julia because of Stephanie Hirsch (her assistant of 15 years). I was seated next to Stephanie at an IACP conference dinner. We got along like a house afire. I became Stephanie and Julia’s roommate at IACP conferences for several years. You can’t imagine the look of disappointment on people’s faces when they knocked at the door to our hotel suite and I was the one who opened the door, not Julia. People would actually push past me as if I wasn’t there, demanding “Where’s Julia?” I’d try explaining that she’d be out in a minute and, no, I was not holding her hostage, but their suspicions remained until Julia arrived.

Do you know what always impressed me about Julia? It was that she always did the very best possible job she could because that was who she was and that was what she was made of. She didn’t whine or complain; she did what she needed to do and got on with it. And she was grateful for her life.

I assisted Julia on several book signings. She would not leave until she had signed a book for every person that had stood in line, even when her fingers got completely stiff. Always polite, she’d thank me for bringing her cold water but nary a word about having to pee. She’d sit there until she was done. She was a trooper.

If she was cooking something in front of a television camera and discovered something wrong with a pot of soup, or with anything else on the set, she fixed it. She didn’t nitpick, she didn’t order others around, she just did it. She was determined that everything be right. If a producer or director made a suggestion about the food or changing a procedure, she’d simply say “Yes, but I think I’ll do it my way.”

I have an original black and white photo of Julia taken on the set of The French Chef, shot by Paul Child. In it, she’s squeezing a suckling pig in her arms, getting him ready for the roasting pan. The photo radiates pure joy. Even the pig looks happy. Every day I walk past that photo and say “Thank you, Julia. Bon Appétit.”

Alice Medrich, Chocolate and dessert chef, two-time James Beard Cookbook of The Year Award Winner, & recipient of the IACP Julia Child Award for the Best First Book

My most special memory of Julia was the day that her brother–in–law Ivan woke me from a rare Saturday morning sleep-in, with a phone call telling me that he and Dorothy were bringing Julia to see my shop, Cocolat! This was in the 80’s. You never saw anyone leap out of bed and dress as quickly as I did. It was a wonderful visit, Julia stopped at every station in the kitchen to chat with each person individually. Ten years later she invited me to appear on PBS’s “Baking With Julia”.

One thing I will never forget: although we had a bevy of staff and helpers on the set, Julia picked up a towel to tidy up the counter every single time the cameras stopped rolling. That was Julia!

Nick Malgieri, Author of BAKE and the forthcoming BREAD

Meeting Julia for the First Time

After I started working with Peter Kump in 1984 I ran into Julia often — at conferences, at the newly–founded James Beard House, and at Peter’s school on East 92 Street. When I went up to Cambridge for my Baking with Julia taping in 1995 we had a little down time between takes and I decided to tell Julia what old friends we really were.

During the long semester break of my second college year my friend Sandy and I decided to board a Greyhound bus and visit with a high school classmate who was attending college in Boston. Our friend was in class during the day, leaving us free to explore, shop for books, and discover cheap places for meals. Sandy, still the perfect travel researcher, had managed to find out Julia Child’s address in Cambridge. One morning we took the T to Harvard Square, and after asking directions a couple of times, we were soon ringing the doorbell at Julia’s Irving Street house. We were both dumbfounded when she answered the door herself; I managed to blurt out how I watched The French Chef faithfully. She excused herself and came back a minute later with autographed French Chef business cards for us and then made a minute’s worth of polite conversation about the street construction in “the square.” It was 1967 and I still remember every detail.

Janet Fletcher, Food writer, Napa Valley

As a young food writer, I was hired to edit the newsletter for the American Institute of Wine & Food, an organization that Julia
co–founded. I was nervous about doing a good job, so you can imagine my elation at hearing that famous voice on my answering machine, congratulating me on an excellent first issue. Now, how kind was that?

Zov Karamardian, Restaurateur, Author

Although my friendship with Julia was later in her life, regardless we had a very strong bond towards each other. We were good friends. I remember each time Julia ate my food, the first thing she would say was why aren’t you writing a cookbook? Your food is so delicious and people should learn how to cook like you. She was so serious that she introduced me to Judith Jones and her assistant to see how I could publish a cookbook. She was always very complimentary and encouraging. Every time I would see her the first question she would ask me is if I had started writing my book. Because of that encouragement I have published two successful cookbooks.

I remember the last time I saw her. Cathy Thomas (the food editor of the OC Register) and I took a trip to visit her in the hospital, in Santa Barbara. We arrived at the hospital and the front desk said that her room was a few doors away... so we entered her room and there was no Julia. Cathy and I just looked at each other in amazement and could not figure out where she could be. Finally a nurse said that she went home. Her home was walking distance from the hospital, so we went to her home and guess what Julia was doing?? She was having a tuna fish sandwich for lunch with potato chips. Who would believe that? Julia Child eating tuna fish and potato chips for lunch. My kind of girl.

Doralece Dullaghan, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Sur La Table

Throughout my life I had the good fortune of being able to work with Julia — with the American Institute of Wine and Food, which she founded and with Sur La Table. In all cases she was an inspiration. I first met her in 1981 in Rancho Santa Fe at a reception for the AIWF. Paul was with her and it was clear that they had a very special relationship.

One of my most memorable occasions with her was on the occasion of her 90th birthday and the opening of the exhibit of her kitchen at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. She graciously agreed to do a signing at our Arlington, Virginia Sur La Table store. It would be one of her last. I picked Julia and her assistant Stephanie up at the hotel and brought them to the store where the customers had been lined up for hours waiting for what might have been their first and last opportunity to meet the culinary icon. As soon as Julia was seated behind the signing table she said to Stephanie, “When can we leave?”. Apparently Julia had been having some pain in her knee and it was bothering her. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The possibility of stopping before we started was daunting. The customers had their noses pushed up against the windows of the kitchen waving and holding signs eager to meet her. Stephanie and Julia had a brief conversation and she began to sign 1000 books. Person after person had their moment with Julia. She greeted each person, looked them in the eye and gave each one a jewel to remember the moment, never indicating the pain she must have been experiencing. After two hours when the last person had had their book signed we left. As we left the store, throngs of people lined either side of the exit door, cheering and clapping as she exited the store and entered the car. It was as if the Beatles had made an appearance. I took her back to her hotel and that night she was feted by the AIWF at her 90th birthday party. She was indomitable.

Thanks to the AIWF, we are pleased to be able to share with you, an inspirational reflection on Julia’s life in the AIWF’s eMagazine, Savor This. http://interactivepdf.uniflip.com/1/23722/257907/pub/index.html

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