April 11, 2014

Julia Child

Julia Child, on the set of "The French Chef". Credit: WGBH Media Library & Archives

Guest:

  • Alex Prud'homme, Julia Child's biographer and author of "My Life in France"

She may be frequently imitated and often parodied (picture Dan Aykroyd slicing his thumb open on SNL), but there’s only one Julia Child.

So what made her such a pioneer?

“Julia was a performer who happened to know a lot about cooking. She would use silly props like giant rolling pins and knives and blow torches," says Alex Prud’homme, Julia’s biographer and great-nephew. "And she was not afraid of making mistakes…people felt very comfortable with her.”

She tried to assuage Americans' fears about cooking, encouraging her audience to try recipes at home - and not worry if the resulting dishes turned out picture perfect. “She really thought of herself as a teacher and as a student, and she was really dedicated to that idea,” says Prud’homme.

Prud'homme says that Julia showed people that cooking could be fun. She never took herself too seriously and when things didn’t go as planned – as they often didn’t – she improvised and rolled with it.

And when things went really wrong?

During an appearance on late night TV, David Letterman once asked if she had ever cooked something that turned out awful. “Yes, lots of times," she admitted. "I give it to my husband.”

Ultimately, Julia’s ability to challenge convention taught viewers about more than just cooking. Watching her show, people learned to see the world, and themselves, differently.

Julia Child, cooking, the French Chef, Culture, WGBH

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