My friend, Connie Wenzel-Jordan, reminded me that this week marks the 48th anniversary of the first episode of The French Chef on WGBH in Boston.
On February 11, 1963, that station broadcast the initial show of the cooking series that turned Julia Child into a popular icon. One of the first such series on television, Child’s was done live and videotaped. Her occasional cooking accidents became classic and her aplomb at handling them her trademark. For the next ten years, the show was produced by WGBH and distributed to PBS stations across the country.
Julia’s passion for French cuisine and all things culinary changed the way America cooked. She introduced home chefs to shallots, leeks, fresh herbs, croissants, baguettes, unsalted butter, and French cheeses. She also taught them the difference between poaching, braising, and sautéing, and how to chop, dice, and slice.
I certainly owe my career to her. When I was newly married, my husband gave me a copy of her Mastering the Art of French Cooking, desperately hoping that I would take a hint. I cooked my way through that tome and never missed Julia on tv, hamming it up as she prepared sophisticated French specialties.
Julia’s legacy is indelible. Her Mastering the Art of French Cooking was on the NYT best seller list in 2009, the same year the movie “Julie and Julia,” debuted celebrating her life and that of a young blogger, Julie Powell.
In a few weeks, I’ll teach a class called “Cooking With Julia.” The centerpiece of the night’s menu will be boeuf à la bourguignonne, a fork-tender beef and mushroom stew The French Chef made famous. I’d like to say “Bon appétit, Julia!
* The photo of Julia Child cooking with her classmate and fellow cook, Charlotte Turgeon, at their 1964 Smith College 30th reunion was taken by Margaret Sussman (also a member of the class) and is reproduced by permission of the Smith College Archives.