Julia Child was bigger than life. Her gregarious manner, outspokenness, and towering height made her a force of nature, and a friend of millions, when she first signed on in the early 1960s with WBGH, the public television station in Boston, to do a cooking show. The French Chef, as it was called, ran for ten years and made Julia a household name.
But long before that, she was Julia McWilliams, who grew up in a well-to-do family in Pasadena. After finding it difficult to pin down a career, in her early thirties Julia joined the Office of Strategic Services with posts in Washington DC, Ceylon, and China. While over in Asia during World War II, she met Paul Child, an East Coast native who had a taste for good food and conversation. They married, and after the war, Paul maintained a government job, which got them posted to Paris – and Julia had her first epiphany with French food. She not only loved to eat the delicacies in France, but wanted to learn how to cook them. She took classes at Le Cordon Bleu and earned her mettle there in classrooms largely made up of American servicemen.
Julia’s approach to French dishes had its first exposure to American audiences with the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961. Several shows and cookbooks later, she was still shouldering on, living a schedule that would put others half her age under.
Dearie gets to the core of all things Julia – her early disappointments with employment, her troubled relationship with her father, and her ultimate flowering as a media icon. It’s an admiring biography, but the author is not averse to showing Julia’s rough edges.
Julia Child was an indefatigable personality who deserves an exhaustive biography. She gets it here.
(William Hicks, Information Services)