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Left: Julia Child
Right: Meryl Street portraying Julia Child in Julie and Julia

Julia Child’s first dinner at Rouen, France, began her love affair with traditional French cuisine, and she described it as “the most exciting meal of my life.”

Later, a stint at Le Cordon Bleu’s cooking classes laid the foundation for her lifelong commitment to the perfection of her culinary skills and for her desire to train others.

What followed was L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes, an informal cooking school set up by Julia, along with two other French ladies, in 1952.

After 10 years of research, the three ladies co-authored a cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which became a runaway hit in 1962. After promoting this book on television, Julia began her TV career. Her cookery show, The French Chef, ran through 200 programs. Several cookbooks and nine public television series spanning 40 years made Julia an American icon.

Julia’s kitchen reflected her personality: straightforward, practical and organised. Items used daily were kept handy.

In her kitchen one found containers with labels stating “spoonery”, “forkery”, “spats” (for spatulas) and “mostly wood” for wooden things.

Jars of spices and condiments were labelled with bold letters; C for cumin, S for saffron, T for thyme and so on. Knives were kept on magnetic holders – handy and safe from contact. She had an entire wall devoted to pots and pans. Black marker outlines on the pegboard served to remind Julia where to replace the cleaned ones. A kitchen bookshelf held her cookbooks, tapes and videos of her shows.

A replica of the kitchen where Julia filmed many of her popular television shows, replete with her famous Garland stove, pots and pans and 800 knives is now an exhibit at the National Museum of American History, Washington DC, and is called ‘Bon Appetit’, after Julia’s signature sign off.

Julia Child’s life has recently been depicted by Meryl Streep in a Hollywood movie, Julie and Julia. The legend of America’s Queen of French cooking lives on.

– Busra Alvi

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on August 16, 2009.