Wednesday, November 17, 2021

She taught Americans French cooking


If you're of a certain age, you already know that Julia Child was once America's most famous chef, a woman whose high-pitched bubble of a voice and ability to simplify  French cooking made her a star of the PBS world. Directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West have teamed for a look at the woman who preceded the rise of the celebrity chef and whose cookbook (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) has been a staple in many American kitchens ever since its publication in 1961. The directors tell the story of Child's suburban California upbringing, her service in the OSS during World War II, and her marriage to Paul Child, a foreign service worker whose posting in Paris opened the door to Julia's culinary career. Tall and ungainly in appearance, Child changed attitudes about cooking and for those of us who don't cherish moments at the stove,  eating. The directors of 2018's RPG, make good use of interviews with colleagues and footage from Child's vast TV repertoire. They also chronicle how Child, who died in 2004, shifted her views on homosexuality to become an advocate for those suffering from AIDS. She stood up for women in a field traditionally dominated by men. Health consciousness has evolved since Child's heyday, but the palate leaps with joy when listing to Julia's passionate defense of butter. Julia serves as a reminder that we eat for nourishment, but also (and equally important) for pleasure. And for late bloomers, Child's story serves as inspiration: Her masterpiece cookbook (written with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle) took 10 years to write. She was 50 when The French Chef made its TV debut in 1963. 

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