Julia, an American Classic

Today, August 15, 2012, marks the 100th birthday of one of the most beloved chefs in history, Julia Child. American icon, author, and television star, Julia catapulted into fame with the 1961 publication of her bestselling cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She remained a household fixture with a ten-year run of the cooking show, The French Chef, making a meticulous style approachable for thousands of at-home cooks. There have been many books (and an Oscar-nominated film) that have explored the essence of Julia, but one in particular provides an insider perspective of her world like none other – and it’s a must read for all Julia fans!

Before she became a world-renowned chef, Julia Child developed an extensive letter-writing history with Avis DeVoto, her pen-pal-turned-literary-mentor and eventual agent who played a key role in the publishing of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” This correspondence began after Julia had written a fan letter to Avis’s husband, journalist Bernard DeVoto, agreeing with the points he made about knives in a cooking article that appeared in an issue of “Harper’s Bazaar.” Avis responded, and that sparked an incredible letter-writing friendship between these two women that spanned decades and many, many topics.

The letters, which were sealed in an archive in Cambridge Massachusetts for nearly 30 years, became available to the public in 2006, and from these letters came, “As Always, Julia: Food, Friendship, and the Making of a Masterpiece,” compiled by noted culinary historian, cookbook author, and biographer Joan Reardon. The selected letters share Julia and Avis’s discussion of cooking (“cookery-bookery,” as Julia called it!), but also reveal how they helped each other through the triumphs and the tragedies of their lives.

Personalities shine through in the letters, which were written with a comfort level of having its contents meant only for its recipient. It’s a delightful read that adds tremendously to the experience of learning about this intriguing woman. There will never again be a Julia Child, whose perfect combination of determination and a zest for life seem unparalleled. Luckily for us, though, her memory and stories live on in books and film so that an entirely new generation will get to experience the joy of Julia.

(Video sourced from Biography.com)

Scroll to Top