by Marion Nestle
Aug 15 2012

Happy 100th birthday Julia Child

Julia Child did not like nutritionists.

She thought our interest in nutritional values (“nutritionism”) had ruined the pleasure and cultural meaning of food.

In 1991, the food writer and cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins, had the thrilling (if overly optimistic) idea that if Julia met me, she would change her mind about nutritionists.  Nancy arranged to host a dinner party to introduce us.

But woe.  Nancy fell and broke her foot.

Julia would do the dinner.  In her Cambridge kitchen!

I wish I could say that the evening was a great success but it did not go well.  Julia did sign my copy of Mastering, but grudgingly (even though it had been so well used that it was falling apart).

Later, after my NYU department introduced our academic programs in Food Studies—so clearly inspired by her work—she relented.

I have a handful of treasured cards and letters from her.  Here’s one:

I miss her.

As does everyone else:

  • aria

    Did you see the google homepage today?

  • I use one of her observations in all my health presentations …

    You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients. – Julia Childs

  • A very touching entry, a reminder that heroes can be very human =). I think her approach to food inspired many into learning how to cook things they were afraid to, and her books will be used for lifetimes more.

  • brad

    My one encounter with her was when she was in her late 70s: I used to park my car on a street near her home in Cambridge, and one evening I was walking back from my office and there she was, tottering painfully down the street. When she saw me she stopped and looked me up and down (I’m tall, and so was she) and gave me a coy smile. I winked at her and kept walking. I was happy to see that she had apparently lost none of her various appetites 😉

    I loved Jacques Pépin’s tribute. It’s instructive to watch and compare their approaches to the classic omelette. Pépin makes it all look effortless, it’s all efficiency and economy, and the result is flawless, almost a Zen omelette. Julia’s approach is fussier and far less perfect, but I bet it tasted just as good.

  • Margeretrc

    Julia Child was awesome and her legacy is still awesome. ‘nuf said.

  • Arin

    I’m curious how the dinner did not go well… the cooking, or the company?

    Regardless, I love to watch her old clips on Youtube, and her recipe for braised cucumbers never fails to delight me.

  • Jen Oslund

    Just curious….with your cook book being so well worn from use…what recipe(s) did you cook the most?

    I would say that Julia made a contribution to ‘nutritionism’ in that she was able to get people to actually think about what they were eating…