Break out your best wobble-warble voice on August 15 to wish Julia Child a happy 100th birthday! In the world of American cooking, the six-two dame from Pasadena, California, stands on a butter pedestal. Her television shows made her an icon, her expertise in the kitchen was legendary—but she was also a dauntless, precise, and delightful writer.
Her landmark first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, first met with outright discouragement from American publishers. Houghton Mifflin rejected it before it was snapped up by editor Judith Jones for Alfred A. Knopf. Child was determined to make the book as perfect as possible, going to extreme lengths to test recipes and combing over every comma. She reviewed galleys scrupulously, later saying: “Seeing one’s inadequate English frozen into type was a lesson in humility.” But she instinctively knew the importance of every word.
Her cookbook language is clear, warm, and nourishing, like an ideal consommé. In her conversation, her letters, and her memoir, she cut loose, with flashes of earthy humor, seductive observations on food and culture, and plenty of good common sense. In honor of her centennial, here are some favorite quotes:
“This is a book for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets, waistlines, time schedules, children’s meals, the parent-chauffeur-den-mother syndrome, or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat.”
—Mastering the Art of French Cooking
“Bugnard insisted that one pay attention, learn the correct technique, and that one enjoy one’s cooking—‘Yes, Madame Scheeld, fun!’ he’d say. ‘Joy! . . . You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made,’ he said. ‘Even after you eat it, it stays with you—always.’”
“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”
“Bosom not as copious as she would wish, but has noticed that Boticelli bosoms are not big either.”
—As Always, Julia, in a letter describing herself to her friend Avis DeVoto
“Because of media hype and woefully inadequate information, too many people nowadays are deathly afraid of their food, and what does fear of food do to the digestive system? I am sure than an unhappy or suspicious stomach, constricted and uneasy with worry, cannot digest properly. And if digestion is poor, the whole body politic suffers.”
—Introduction to The Way to Cook
“I’m about to rush out to do my marketing, and then settle down to my soups. I can’t tell you the emotions of love and gratitude for all your interest and hard work in the behalf of our book; you display the true marks of a Great Gourmande . . . which always includes the warmest and most generous of natures . . . and is why people who love to eat are always the best people.”
—As Always, Julia
What are your favorite Julia Child quotes—or recipes you’ve enjoyed on the plate or just on the page?