Object of Affection: Julia Child on her 100th Birthday

She was magnificent. She was born 100 years ago today in Pasadena, California. Growing up, she was wild, funny and athletic. She was 6’2” before she graduated from high school. She went East to Smith College in 1930 and wanted to be a writer. In 1941, on the brink of World War II, she moved to Washington, D.C. and worked for the Office of Strategic Services, a new government intelligence agency. She traveled, and while in Sri Lanka in 1945, she met her future husband. In 1945, she married.

And in 1948, Julia Child moved to Paris and learned to cook. Good news for the rest of us. She was wise, that Julia. About food and about life. To whit…

“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.”

“The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook.”

“I would rather eat one tablespoon of chocolate russe cake than three bowls of Jell-O.”

“How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?”

“Everything in moderation...including moderation.”

“You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.”

“...small helpings, no seconds, no snacking, and a little bit of everything.”

“I would far prefer to have things happen as they naturally do, such as the mousse refusing to leave the mold, the potatoes sticking to the skillet, the apple charlotte slowly collapsing. One of the secrets of cooking is to learn to correct something if you can, and bear with it if you cannot.”

"Cooking is one failure after another, and that's how you finally learn."

"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet."

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a ‘What the hell?’ attitude.”

"The pleasures of the table—that lovely old-fashioned phrase—depict food as an art form, as a delightful part of civilized life. In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal."

"Train yourself to use your hands and fingers; they are wonderful instruments. Train yourself also to handle hot foods; this will save time. Keep your knives sharp...Above all, have a good time."

Thank goodness Julia did all the above.

I love this woman and all she stands for. I loved her before I’d ever traveled to Paris and before I could roast a chicken. I loved her before Julie and Julia, the movie, and followed the original Julie and Julia Project blog on Salon.com. I love how hard and long she worked at Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and how she innately understood the power of television to bring the book’s lessons into American kitchens. I love her humor and stubbornness and grace—and the fact that she never whined.

And I love that she loved to eat. I’m going to honor her memory with a good meal. Maybe a roast chicken.


About Cindy Wall

Cindy’s a communications and marketing pro, a writer, a grammar snob, and a rapacious reader. In her own words, she knows “a little about a lot”—i.e., 19th century literature, Karl Lagerfeld’s latest adventures, professional bike racing, and when to use the Oxford comma. She’s a fan of indie film and music, and bullish on local eating and shopping. And she’s recently re-reved her blog, Paris State of Mind, where she writes about all things French.