Julia Child

Exposed mainly to parodies that made fun of her voice and mannerisms, I didn’t understand Julia Child until it was too late. I always thought she was the ambassador to froofy Frenchy cooking. I realized last year, when I finally saw some of her cooking shows (mostly with Jacque Pepin, who by that time seemed to gently perform most of the hard cooking work; Child’s hand didn’t seem as strong or steady as I’m sure it must have been when she was younger), however, that she was quite the opposite: She made french fries, potato salad, cookies, broiled fish, fried chicken… and while she did it with style and sophistication, the whole point was to make the tools and ideas of fancy cooking usable by the rest of us, to make whatever sorts of foods we really loved and to introduce us to tastes that we might come to love.

I don’t remember what she was cooking, except that butter figured heavily in it, but I do remember my favorite line, spoken by Child in her unique voice as she spooned butter into a saucepan: “Some people don’t like cooking with butter anymore because they fear it’s not good for them. If you don’t want to use butter, you can substitute cream in this recipe.” (I see from Child’s obituary in today’s New York Times that this was something of a mantra.)

Whatever was the trick, Julia Child lived well, and died today just shy of 92 years of age.