New Castle News

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September 1, 2012

Culinary Conversation: Julia Child, from top secret to top chef

NEW CASTLE — She was one of several famous people I would have loved to have dinner with.

The conversation would have been lively for sure — because the woman had a larger-than-life personality.

Julia Child would have been 100 this year.

Many know her as the one of the first to appear on our television screens in “The French Chef,” an award-winning show that was entertaining and educational. Her occasional goofs and mishaps only made her more endearing. And those missteps even led to a classic Saturday Night Live skit.

But there was a side of Julia that sits on the back burner of her other accomplishments.

Julia joined the Office of Strategic Services or OSS — the precursor of the CIA — after learning that she was too tall to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps. She began her OSS career as a typist at its headquarters in Washington, but soon was given a more responsible position as a top-secret researcher working directly for the head of OSS. In 1944, she was posted to what is now Sri Lanka and later assigned to China.

During that career, she met Paul Child, also an OSS employee. The couple moved in 1948 to Paris, where Paul was assigned to by the State Department and where he introduced his wife to fine cuisine.

Julia attended the Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later studied privately with master chefs. And in 1961, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” which she co-authored with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, was published.

I have the utmost respect for the woman who additionally received honorary doctorates from Harvard University, Johnson & Wales University, her alma mater, Smith College, Brown University and several other universities.

There is and will be no other like Julia.

 Her popularity is so immense that the kitchen used on the set of her shows is on display at The Smithsonian. And, oh yes, there was even a movie, “Julie and Julia.”

Interestingly, it was on TV the other night and I watched it for a second time. It follows Julie Powell, who made all of the more than 500 recipes in the cookbook in just one year and then blogged about it.

Both dishes included today are adaptations of the originals and are great for company or Sunday dinner.

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