Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Monday, Aug 13, 2012
Julia Child is an influential cooking icon who didn't actually pick up the ladle until after her 32nd birthday. As her 100th birthday approaches, we look back at Julia the icon, her influence, impact, legacy rumors and urban legends... the good and bad in her recipe for success and immortality.

Not very many of us have the distinction of being portrayed onscreen by both Meryl Streep and Dan Aykroyd (although, for some, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time).


This fact alone speaks volumes about the impact of Julia Child, the cooking icon who worked her way into America’s kitchens in book form and into America’s living rooms on television. The lady was everywhere for decades.


As to these remarkably diverse portrayals and her opinions on them, Child was reportedly such a fan of Aykroyd’s Saturday Night Live spoof that she showed recordings of the sketch to visiting friends. Streep’s much more serious and accurate turn as Child in 2009’s Julie & Julia was a performance that, sadly, Julia Child did not live to see. She was reportedly unamused by Julie Powell’s blog and book that led to the film. However, Streep’s acclaimed interpretation of Child was informed by Julia’s own book My Life in France (written with grand-nephew Alex Prud’homme) and gave a dead-on impression of our subject, near-falsetto voice and all, never once seeming like she was poking even gentle fun at the lady.


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Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012
When Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961, gustatory elegance meant canned cream of mushroom soup and TV dinners. Julia Child, a too tall, plain woman happily waving a knife, changed all that for the immeasurably better. Everything changed with her.

“AND LET US NOT FORGET: JULIA CHILD. Everything started—everything changed—with her.”
—Anthony Bourdain, The Les Halles Cookbook


In October 1961, Knopf Publishing released a 732-page cookbook entitled Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  The authors, Louise Bertholle, Simone Beck, and Julia Child, were unknown writers. The book was expensive ($10 dollars!) and unwieldy, its recipes complex. The interested cook needed time, equipment, and courage. Publishers Alfred and Blanche Knopf were sure they’d never earn a dime.  his was an era of gustatory shame in America, a time of speedy meals comprised of processed foods. But a young editor named Judith Jones, herself an excellent cook who had lived in France, insisted there were American book buyers ready and willing to prepare dishes like oeufs à la Bourguignonne (eggs poached in red wine) and oie rôtie aux pruneaux (roast goose stuffed with prunes and foie gras).


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