This delightful collection of interviews with "The French Chef" Julia Child traces her life from her first stab at a writing career fresh out of college; to D.C., Sri Lanka, and Kunming where she worked for the Office of Strategic Services (now the CIA); to Paris where she and her husband Paul, then a member of the State Department, lived after World War II, and where Child attended the famous cooking school Le Cordon Bleu. From there, Child catapulted to famefirst with the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961 and the launch of her home cooking show, "The French Chef" in 1963. In this volume of carefully selected interviews, Child's charm, guile, and no-nonsense advice are on full, irresistibly delicious display. Includes an Introduction from Helen Rosner, food critic for the New Yorker.
About the Author
Date of Birth:August 5, 1912
Date of Death:August 12, 2004
Place of Birth:Pasadena, California
Place of Death:Santa Barbara, California
Education:B.A., Smith College, 1934; Le Cordon Bleu, 1950
Read an Excerpt
HUDGINS: What is it that makes a really good cook?
CHILD: Hunger. Greed. [laughs] And also just the enjoyment of working with your hands. If you like hand work, then cooking is wonderfully creative work, I think. It takes all of your intelligence and all of your dexterity. It’s always creative, it’s always new, it’s always fun. I mean, unless you don’t like to eat—and some people don’t. And I see no excuse for people who say, “Oh, well, I work all day, and I just can’t come home and fix anything nice.” It’s very easy to cook. You don’t have to cook anything fancy, but just get good, fresh food. It can be very simple indeed.
HUDGINS: You use the terms good food and good cooking a lot, but there are some people who would say that a casserole containing Hamburger Helper, instant onion soup, and crushed potato chips is good food, meaning that they enjoy eating it. What are your own criteria for determining what good food is?
CHILD: First, I think you have to learn how to eat. It took me certainly a time, living here [in France], to learn how to eat, to learn what really good food tastes like. I think that’s one reason why it’s very important to come to France, where cooking is taken seriously, and to taste what the real thing is supposed to be like. But I think that in America, food is getting better and better—our standards are getting better. It’s interesting that in France the pleasure of cooking is not a middle-class hobby the way it is in the United States. We know very few French people who enjoy cooking at all. It’s just sort of not considered. Or somebody who’s had university training does not go into food the way we do in the States now. Just think of this International Association of Cooking Schools. We have over nine hundred members from all over the country—and the world—most of whom are middle-class people with educations. It’s very hard running this cooking school [LaVarenne] to find any French people who know about cooking who could be useful to them. It’s very difficult. Cooking is not considered a serious discipline. What we’re trying to do here with the IACS—and also with our new American Institute of Wine and Food—is to have professional cooking a real discipline, on a par with architecture, music, everything else.
HUDGINS: Then what accounts for such good cooking in France, in the home?
CHILD: I don’t think you’ve got such good cooking in the homes anymore. Most people don’t have hired help anymore, to do the cooking. I think often they [French housewives] can do a little bit, but they usually—when they’re going to have anyone for dinner—they either take them out, or they go to the charcuterie and get something.
HUDGINS: So you’re saying that the real traditions of French cooking exist on the professional level, in the restaurants, not in the homes.
CHILD: I would think so. And I think also the foreigners who come to the restaurants are far more critical of the food than the general French person is, because if you don’t cook well yourself, you’re not often a very good judge of what restaurant food is like—I mean, if you’re used to bought charcuterie-type stuff. I think the French—who are very chauvinistic—would be horrified by that observation, but I think probably you get more careful analysis from foreigners than from French people.