After weeks of waking up and debating whether or not I should go into the office (I feel like I’ve been fighting some kind of infection for weeks), I finally did the right thing and called in sick yesterday. I slept until 2 pm and it felt just right.
When I got the mail in my pajamas, my documentary on Julia Child had arrived from Netflix. As I learned about her life and the era in which she was raised, my appreciation for what she accomplished soars.
Julia Child grew up in an era of houses run by servants and cooks. Her mother never cooked and Julia was sent to college not to prepare for a career, but to prepare her in the traditional quest of finding an intelligent, accomplished and wealthy husband. Upon graduating from Smith College without any goals or vocational direction, Julia tried her hand at an unglamorous advertising job in New York. She partied a lot, and after a failed romance, returned to Pasadena right before her mother’s death. Determined to marry for love, she turned down a marriage proposal to a wealthy publishing heir and instead enlisted to help in the armed services during World War II. She was eventually placed in an espionage office in Sri Lanka. In her thirties, she met her future husband Paul Child, an erudite, sophisticated and artistic colleague in the secret services office. It was not love at first sight. In the end, however, her kindness won him over and his artistic leanings helped refine her. They remained partners in everything they did and he helped shape and manage her success.
When she started learning to cook, her efforts were fraught with error. Her brain recipes turned to mush. Her duck exploded in the oven. Her ground-breaking cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking was turned down by two publishers after she spent 10 years writing it with Simone Beck through a laborious long distance correspondence. Every success Julia Child experienced in life was far from effortless. I admire her so much for that. Her success depended on her perseverance and determination and was driven by her natural curiosity and undeniable charm.
On a side note, here’s a clip from Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations when he visited Washington D.C. He visits this spy museum where he learns about Julia’s spy-related contribution to the war. It’s a fun clip with quotes like:
“What are they looking for now? The recipe for KFC?”
“Julia Child? She was one of yours? I love to imagine Julia parachuting behind enemy lines with a knife between her teeth . . .”