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7 Facts You Didn’t Know About Julia Child

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Celebrating cooking’s great woman, Julia Child.

In the cooking field, perhaps no woman has been a greater figure of trail-blazing achievement than Julia Child. But how much do you know about her? Here are seven facts about Julia Child you probably did not know.

julia child facts and biography
Photo by Bill Aller / NTY / Redux

Many people know Julia Child’s major career highlights. She shook off her staid upper-middle-class life in Pasadena, California to work in Asia for the O.S.S. during World War II. Not content to stay at home after the war, Julia graduated as the only woman in her culinary program in Paris.

She taught cooking classes before eventually publishing the blockbuster Mastering the Art of French Cooking. From there, she became an author, a television cooking star when “tv chef” was a virtually nonexistent field, and an icon.

But here are 7 facts you should know about the great Julia Child.

1. Julia Child survived breast cancer.

After discovering a lump in her left breast in 1968, Julia Child underwent a radical mastectomy and spent 10 days in the hospital recovering afterward.

2. Julia Child’s O.S.S. work was even more high-level than you thought.

Julia Child’s highest position withe the O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to today’s C.I.A.) was Chief of the O.S.S. Registry. With Julia’s top secret security clearance, she knew every message going in and out of her station, and beyond. She also worked on a research project developing shark repellant — key because sharks would sometimes detonate undersea explosives meant for German U-boats.

Julia Child Kitchen at the Smithsonian Institution American History Museum
Julia Child’s Kitchen, preserved at the Smithsonian Institution’s American History Museum / Photo courtesy Smithsonian Institution.

3. Julia Child was a big supporter of Planned Parenthood.

In the early 1980s, she led fund-raising cooking lessons, and authored a nationwide pledge letter that read, “Few politicians will take the risk of publicly supporting either contraception or abortion—and who is ‘for abortion’ anyway? We are concerned with freedom of choice.”

French Fruit Tart Recipe With Mixed Fruit and Berries and vanilla custard pastry cream

4. Julia and Paul Child’s Wedding: For better or for worse.

The day before Julia’s wedding to Paul Child (an aesthete 10 years her senior — and several inches shorter than her 6’2″ frame), the two suffered injuries in a car accident. The casual Pennsylvania wedding took place nonetheless, bride and groom accessorized with bandages and stitches.

5. Julia Child was a true international woman.

In addition to her WWII work in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Julia lived in France, Norway, and Germany.

6. Call her Dr. Child.

Julia Child was awarded numerous accolades and honors in her lifetime, including the French Legion of Honor, an Emmy, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She also received 10 honorary doctorates, from schools including Bates, Brown, Rutgers, and Harvard Universities. She was also the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Hall of Fame.

7. A French Chef to the end.

Still working at age 85, Julia taped a new show with chef Jacques Pepin — and toured to promote it and the accompanying book. Julia Child died in her sleep at home in California, two days before her 92nd birthday. Her last meal was French onion soup.

Julia Child roast chicken with herbs

You may also enjoy: Roast Chicken With Lots of Herbs and How to Make Perfect Pie Dough

Sources:

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-passionate-progressive-politics-of-julia-child; https://juliachildfoundation.org; https://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/13/dining/julia-child-the-french-chef-for-a-jello-nation-dies-at-91.html; https://www.britannica.com/biography/Julia-Child; https://www.latimes.com/food/la-081304child_lat-story.html

2 comments

  • Steph Down Under

    I had seen this article before; I love Julia Child’s history and recipes. Just rather disgusted seeing that she was a supporter of planned parenthood. That’s unfortunate. Otherwise, she was a fascinating and entertaining woman who set a new barre in cooking for American women!

  • I can’t wait to try out these recipes. The photos have triggered my salivary glands. I am looking forward to your upcoming chicken soup recipe which I’m sure will be welcome medicine for body and soul, particularly in this unwelcome cold and flu season.

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