Celebrating Julia Child's 100th birthday

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Julia Child displays a salade nicoise she prepared in the kitchen of her vacation home in Grasse, in southern France, in this August 21, 1978 file photo (AP Photo, File)

First aired on The Sunday Edition (12/8/12)

August 15, 2012, is the 100th anniversary of Julia Child's birth. Child was a history major, a New York advertising copywriter and a researcher for the U.S. Secret Service. But she will always be remembered as the woman who brought French food to America. Her masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, inspired generations of home cooks and professional chefs. Child also spawned an entire genre of reality TV: cooking on television. Child passed away in 2004, just two days shy of turning 92, but her legacy lives on. 

In November 1999, Child was in Toronto to promote Cooking at Home with Jacques and Julia, a new cookbook she co-authored with French-born chef Jacque Pépin. She came to the CBC during that book tour and spoke with The Sunday Edition host Michael Enright. You can listen to their conversation in the audio player above.

And if you can't get enough of Julia Child, check out any of the five reads below that offer insight into who she was and what she loved to do.


My Life in France

by Julia Child

What better way to get to know Julia Child than to read words she wrote herself? My Life in France chronicles Julia's six years spent in France -- the place where she learned to cook and discovered her true passion. Her infectious personality and love of France, food and her husband Paul come across vividly here. Her wit, determination and joie de vivre leap off the page from the very beginning of the book. You'll be pleasantly surprised to find in Julia a new friend, one whose company you'll find it hard to tear yourself away from.


A Covert Affair

by Jennet Connant

Before Julia Child was the Julia Child, the beloved chef, she was a civil servant working abroad for the American government. Julia was awkward and unsure, but always up for adventure. A Covert Affair is part biography (it nicely fills in the part of Julia's life glossed over in My Life in France) part spy thriller. It follows Julia, her eventual husband, Paul, and their colleague, Jane Foster, as they navigate the inner workings of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and what it meant to live and work abroad during a pivotal time in American history.


Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child

by Bob Spitz

Unlike the more focused books on this list, this brand-new Julia Child biography covers Julia's life from beginning to end. Spitz had access to Julia's letters, her notes for Mastering the Art of French Cooking, her television scripts and more, and it shows: Dearie is a comprehensive, intimate and surprising look at the life of a woman we think we know all too well already. Expect Dearie to become the go-to definitive biography of Ms. Child.


Julia's Cats: Julia Child's Life in the Company of Cats

by Patricia Barey and Therese Burson

Julia Child loved three things: Paul, cooking and her cats. This quirky and charming book shows readers a different side to the chef's life and showcases her life-long affection for felines, which began when a cat appeared on the Childs' doorstep one day in Paris. Child dubbed the cat Minette and shortly after, declared "our domestic circle was completed." Though Child's life changed dramatically as she became a famous television personality, her beloved cats remained a constant source of affection and companionship.


As Always, Julia: Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto

edited by Joan Reardon

Julia Child was a prolific writer of letters. She wrote more than 200 letters to Avis DeVoto, an acquaintance who would become one of Child's closest friends and eventual (but unofficial) literary agent and biggest supporter (after Paul, of course). Dazzling wit and raw emotion fill each page as the letters follow Child's life from her marriage to Paul through to her transformation to TV chef. Joan Reardon adds a historian's and food writer's eye to the texts and the result is a delicious slice of Child's extraordinary life.

Do you have a favourite Julia Child read? Let us know in the comments below.