Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Publishing Legend Julia Child Would Have Been 100
When I think of Julia Child, I don't think about the cooking as much as I do about the writing and the publishing angle. She started writing her first cookbook later in life and dealt with her share of rejection. It wasn't until one smart editor at Knopf, Judith Jones, decided to take a chance on her that got her career in the art of cooking moving.
I wrote about Julia Child's local ties to my area, Bucks County, PA. Her brother-in-law, Charlie, twin to her husband, Paul, lived in Lumberville, PA, which is less than five miles from New Hope.
One of the things that always amazed me about Julia Child with regard to publishing was the way she worked. From what I've read it was non-stop, and in those days there were no computers and everything was done in hard copy. When I started getting published in the 90's publishing was still in a transitional stage and I submitted all my manuscripts in hard copy so I know what that was like. We used to write and then re-write until each hard copy page was perfect. There was no room for mistakes and you had to type just as well as you wrote...or hire a typist to do it for you. I often wonder how many people would be writing now if this were still the case. I could slip right back into my old habits without a problem. But I doubt a large number of those who never worked that way would be able to.
Here's a web site with twelve interesting facts about Julia Child.
Knopf has organized a celebration for her 100th birthday, which you can read about here.
I like this article because it gets into the publishing aspects of her life.
And, aside from all her accomplishments in publishing, she really did change the way people cook and eat. And at a time when fast food was becoming popular. When I speak to friends who are in the food industry they claim she paved the way for a lot of the things we now see in pop culture with regard to food. She was the original foodie.
I had a glimpse of that in 2004 when reporting an article about how elderly people find living arrangements to fit their changing physical needs. A longtime admirer of Child, I had grown up watching her popular television series, “The French Chef.” And though I never thoroughly mastered her technique for trussing a chicken or making a pastry dough, I still chuckle at her reassuring words about culinary mishaps: “Remember, you’re alone in the kitchen.”
And her marriage to Paul Child is one of the great love affairs of all time. They met later in life and the marriage lasted 48 years. Paul was a huge influence in the background throughout Julia's long career in cooking, in publishing, and in television. There are many good books out there that get into far more detail than I could ever get into in a blog post. I'm not a huge fan of the book and movie "Julie and Julia," partly because Julia didn't endorse it and partly because it's more about Julie Powell than it is about Julia Child and I don't care about Julie Powell. I didn't hate it, but didn't love it either. But even that book is a great example of the influence Julia Child had on so many people during her lifetime...even though Julia Child dismissed Julie Powell in public...which we rarely hear about.
Eventually, Powell's blog is featured in a story published in The New York Times, after which her project begins to receive the attention of journalists, literary agents, publishers, and a dismissive response from Child herself.
I've read more than a few biographies about Julia Child and she was a strong supporter of public television and she didn't believe in commercial endorsement. In other words, she could have made a lot more money than she did in her lifetime if she'd cashed in like so many others. Though she never said why she dismissed Powell, I often wonder if it had something to do with her own strong standards and ethics.
In any event, Julia Child was a publishing legend and a pop culture icon who paved the way for others like her. Unfortunately, there hasn't been anyone just like her and I wonder if there ever will be.