Julia Child's impact on cooking still resonates

In this 1978 photo, Julia Child shows off a salade nicoise she prepared in the kitchen of her vacation home in southern France.

Born 100 years ago Aug. 15 in Pasadena, Julia Child lived up to her 6-foot-2 stature.

The chef, author and television personality was a towering presence of American gastronomy during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, with a signature style that was both exuberant and witty. She introduced average Americans to French cuisine and was a pioneer of television cooking shows. A 1966 Time magazine cover story about her was titled “Our Lady of the Ladle.”

All that in a career that didn’t really get going until she was in her 40s.

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Among her trophies were numerous Emmys, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, given for her services to French culinary arts. She died in 2004, two days short of her 92nd birthday.

Coinciding with her 100th birthday today is the publication of a new biography, “Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child” by Bob Spitz. The author believes Child’s legacy is an enduring one.

“Julia showed us there was poetry in eating,” Spitz says. “While the food scene has evolved and moved on, she lit the fuse and the fireworks are still going off.”

As our salute to the master, here’s a collection of Julia Child trivia.

Cooking tips

Always read the recipe first, even if it is familiar to you. (From “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”)

If you let bread dough rise in too warm a place — over 80 degrees — you will get a lot of hot air but little flavor and texture. A longer rise at 70 or 75 degrees gives the best results. (From “The Way to Cook.”)

To peel a clove of garlic, place the garlic on your work surface, lay the flat side of a large knife on it, and smash it with your fist. The peel is then easy to pick off and discard. (From “In Julia’s Kitchen With Master Chefs”)


Her books

Julia Child’s first cookbook, the seminal “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” was written with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle and published in 1961. “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two” (this time only with Simone Beck), followed in 1970.

Over her career, she was the author of 18 books, several of them in collaboration with other famous chefs. Her final book, “My Life in France,” was published posthumously in 2006.

Julia Child sits in her kitchen in 2002 after it was moved from her Cambridge, Mass., home to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Tim Sloan • AFP/Getty Images

Television shows

Child’s television career began with “The French Chef,” produced by Boston’s public television station from 1963 to 1973.

She had a number of other TV series and specials, including several in which she partnered with renowned French chef Jacques Pepin.

Three of Julia Child’s TV series were filmed in her Cambridge, Mass., kitchen. The kitchen is now on display at the Smithsonian.

In her words

Here are a few of Julia Child's many memorable quotes:

“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.”

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”

“Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

“In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport.”

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

“It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate — you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”

“Life itself is the proper binge.”

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

“I think every woman should have a blowtorch.”

“Everything in moderation ... including moderation.”


Lessons from Julia

Though she wasn’t a proponent of low-fat cooking, Julia Child left behind a legacy of healthy food habits. These lessons were gathered from the editors of Rodale Inc. magazines:

1) Embrace the joy of cooking (and eating.): “Julia Child ... taught me to value simple foods, simply prepared, and that even the most understated meal was an event to be shared with family and friends,” said Ethne Clarke, editor-in-chief of Organic Gardening magazine.

2) Demand fresh, real food: “She wanted real ingredients, the way nature intended them to be, not made by man, but made by the Earth,” said Leah Nichols, director of food services at Rodale Inc.

3) Enjoy everything in moderation, but enjoy it: “Take a tip from the French. The better the food, the less you need to be satisfied,” said Judith Hill, food director at Prevention magazine.

4) Be open to new culinary experiences: Child introduced Americans to recipes they’d never heard of. “Try anything. You may find you love that new-to-you fish or vegetable,” said Hill.

5) Chill out in the kitchen: “I loved that it didn’t have to turn out perfect for her, and she acknowledged that it didn’t always do so, but showed you how to salvage whatever happened and enjoy it anyway,” said Bridget Doherty, senior editor of nutrition at Women’s Health magazine.


Birthday events

•Warwick’s, the La Jolla bookstore, will celebrate Julia Child’s birthday Aug. 15 with cake and balloons for customers during store hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The store, located at 7812 Girard Ave., also has a display of Julia Child’s most celebrated books. Info: (858) 454-0347.

•The San Diego chapter of American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF) will host an evening of French wine, food and stories of Julia Aug. 15 from 6 to 8:30 at Hexagone French Cuisine, 495 Laurel St., Park West. $75 members, $90 nonmembers. (619) 297-0951 or

•Chef Pascal Vignau of Chandler’s Restaurant and Lounge at the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa will pay homage to Julia Child Aug. 15-16 with a special three-course menu of her dishes, Boeuf Bourguignon, Sole Meunière and Tarte Tatin. Cost is $38 (or $48 with paired wines). Info: (760) 683-5500

•The Red Door Restaurant & Wine Bar in Mission Hills will host a four-course Chef’s Market Dinner honoring Julia Child Aug. 15 at 5:30 p.m. The event begins with a tour of the Mission Hills Farmers Market with chef and author Amy Finley as guide, followed by the dinner by chef Miguel Valdez and his team. Cost is $48, or $73 with wine pairings. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program. Reservations are required, (619) 295-6000.

•Aug. 15 is the final day of JC100 Restaurant Week, organized by Alfred A. Knopf, the publisher of Julia Child’s cookbooks. One hundred restaurants around the country, including Bernard’O in Rancho Bernardo and Bleu Boheme in San Diego — are serving special dishes from Julia Child’s repertoire.

PBS, the TV network that broadcast Julia Child’s cooking shows, has full shows, specials and interviews available to watch online at There’s also a collection of recipes and memories about her from chefs and bloggers;

Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia."

On the big screen

Meryl Streep was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Julia Child in the 2009 film “Julie & Julia,” written and directed by the late Nora Ephron. The screenplay was based on two books, “Julie & Julia” by Julie Powell and “My Life in France” by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme.

On the small screen

In a classic and oft-rerun “Saturday Night Live” sketch, circa 1978, Dan Aykroyd impersonated Julia Child as she demonstrated how to bone a chicken. The lesson goes horribly but hilariously wrong when the chef cuts herself. Bleeding profusely, she first shows how to apply a tourniquet, then finds she can’t call for help because the wall phone is a prop. Delirium sets in, and she passes out after uttering her familiar sign-off — “Bon Appetit!”

Chris Ross

Chris Ross

As section editor of Food, Travel and Home&Garden at The San Diego Union-Tribune, Chris Ross assigns and edits stories for all three sections. She also writes stories about gardening, home decor, cooking and travel, and has a weekly Recipe of the Week column in the Food section. A UC San Diego graduate, Ross has been a U-T employee since 1981, with stints as a copy editor, news editor, designer and design leader before becoming a section editor. She started her career in journalism as a reporter at the Springfield, Mo., Daily News in 1972. Gardening and cooking are among her favorite pastimes.