This week marks what would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday. And though she may have reached millions through television, the fact that she was a friend and supportive neighbor is most evident right here in Greater Boston.
From her home in Cambridge, Child encouraged a very nascent food scene, one that almost 50 years later is unrecognizable from the meat-and-potatoes basics of old, but that still bears evidence of Child's unique touch.
- Barbara Haber, food historian and author of "From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals"
- Jody Adams, chef and owner at Rialto in Cambridge and co-owner of Trade in Boston. She and her husband run the food blog The Garum Factory.
- Russell Morash, producer and director of the original "The French Chef" on WGBH
While Child was in France writing "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, " she had to keep in mind her American audience. Barbara Haber explained:
It was very clear that while she was working on the manuscript, she was in touch with people in America and she was asking them, “Is this available?” “Can we do this?” So she was well aware of the limitations of the American marketplace while she was inFrance.
Jody Adams described the many lessons chefs could learn from Child:
Her thinking, her joie de vivre, her “take what you do seriously, don’t take yourself seriously,” make sure that you know who you’re cooking, know where your food comes from, be curious, use good technique, all of those things.
Adams came to Boston in 1983 to start her culinary career. She reflected on how Child helped Boston be more welcoming to nascent female chefs:
Women were cooking; I think that restaurant kitchens weren’t welcoming…My guess is that the reason there are so many fabulous, talented, strong female chefs in Boston today has a lot to do with the culture that Julia helped create here in terms of what can one do? You can do anything. Man or woman, it doesn’t matter, we both belong in the kitchen.
Russell Morash recalls a fond memory that spoke to Child's stamina:
When we were shooting a little documentary in Norway with her as she revisited a country that she had been to with Paul when he was with the state department…We went back and had a ten day shooting trip. And the big day was one when she starts in a vodka distillery and moves onto lunch somewhere to an amazing salmon river where she fly fishes then into a helicopter where we fly up over a mountain or two, arriving at the destination at about ten or 11 o’clock at night...She gets out of the helicopter. We all go onto the hotel. We’re absolutely exhausted...And the phone rings, and it’s Julia and she says, “Where are we going to dinner?”
John D. Boswell (also known as melodysheep) remixed Julia Child clips for PBS Digital Studios:
This article was originally published on August 17, 2012.
This segment aired on August 17, 2012.