From Julia Child, we’ve learned thousands of French recipes and techniques. Yet we’ve also learned life lessons that have inspired and motivated us, whether in the kitchen or not. In honor of Julia Child’s 100th birthday, we’ve compiled a list of the top three inspirations she’s given us that continue to change our lives today.
It’s never too late to succeed (or find purpose).
According to filmmaker Marilyn Mellowes in an article written for PBS, it took Julia years to find her life’s path. Though raised in an upper middle class family, well educated, and interested in becoming a writer, Julia had little luck honing in on her career early on.
“I am sadly an ordinary person … with talents I do not use,” Julia once wrote in her diary, according to PBS.
Like many others in her generation, Julia took an interest in helping with the war effort, and after Pearl Harbor she took a job with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). It wasn’t until her early 30s that Julia met her husband to-be, Paul Child, while working abroad for the OSS.
And even then, Paul had described Julia as “wildly emotional” and “an extremely sloppy thinker.” It wouldn’t be until the late 1940s that Paul and Julia would be married, and shortly after that when Julia would enroll in culinary school at Cordon Bleu in France.
In fact, it wasn’t until her late 40s that Julia’s groundbreaking cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” would be published. “To think it has taken me 40 years to find my true passion (cat and husband excepted),” she told her family.
Indeed, Julia is an inspiration that it really never is too late to find purpose and succeed in your own life’s mission.
Don’t let rejection discourage you.
Julia’s first masterpiece, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” was 10 years in the making, and it saw its fair share of rejection before finally being published. Julia had begun collaborating on the French cookbook with two fellow cooks in Paris in the 1950s, and they were trying to find an American publisher to distribute the book in the States.
Though initially in contract with publisher Houghton Mifflin, the book was ultimately rejected for being too long. According to Judith Jones, then-editor of the publisher Knopf, the original publisher had mused, “Why would any American want to know this much about French cooking?”
Yet fate and perseverance were on Julia’s side. The manuscript made its way across the publishing industry to Jones, who had spent years in Paris herself and experienced the charm and joys of French cuisine. Intuiting the need for such a cookbook in America, Jones convinced the Knopfs to publish the book. In 1961 it came to fruition, and the rest is history.
Your life really can make a positive impact.
Julia’s life has without a doubt impacted thousands, if not millions, of home cooks, chefs, and food professionals around the world. In teaching the art of French cuisine, a cuisine until her time reserved only for the specially trained classical chef, Julia broke the barrier between high-end cuisine and everyday cooking. She shattered the notion that Americans would not be willing to learn French cuisine, and in that she opened up the doors for culinary exploration within households for years to come.
Beyond the wild success of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” Julia’s life continued to make a difference. Her cooking shows on television taught us that it’s okay to make mistakes while cooking, that it’s okay (and ideal) to cook with real, whole foods, and that each one of us can truly master a new skill if we work hard and with dedication.
Jones, J. (n.d.). The Story of ‘Mastering’ at Knopf. RandomHouse.com. Retrieved from http://www.randomhouse.com/knopf/authors/child/making.html
Mellowes, M. (2005, June 15). Julia Child – About Julia Child. PBS. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/julia-child/about-julia-child/555/
Wikipedia. (2012, August 19). Julia Child. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Child
Image adapted from little blue hen, Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0