October 24, 2013

The Inspiration of Julia Child

The Julia Child Facebook page recently shared a Slate article detailing a letter written by Child to her cookbook publisher. Apparently, Child and her coauthors were in the last stages of an arduous publishing process. Having labored for years on this project despite rejection by other publishers, she finally found herself ready to name the book. 

Letter page 1 from Slate's article crediting the Ransom Center Archives © 2012
Seeing her letter from 1960 really tickled me. There is something so genuine in the flurry of her title brainstorm. She laid all her ideas out there including slight variations on her keywords. With the keyword "love" she suggests In Love with French Cooking, Love and French Cooking, The Love of French Cooking, and Cooking for Love. Other keywords include variants of "master", "passion", and "hobby", yielding 27 possibilities in all. I think these words reflect how deeply meaningful this endeavor must have been for her. 

What's funny is that the title didn't end up being any of those options. How's that for a commentary on the creative process? It took at least 27 names for her to reach the eventual title penciled in the corner: Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Letter page 2 from Slate's article crediting the Ransom Center Archives © 2012
Her charm and sincerity gush from every sentence of the letter. She was such an accomplished woman--serving in the OSS, marrying a diplomat, attending Le Cordon Bleu, living all over Europe. Any one of those accomplisments would render women jealous even now, let alone in the mid-twentieth century. Yet her humility is apparent. You can just sense her approachability whether from the occasional typo, the simple vocabulary, or the cheerful tone. 

I thought this letter was well worthy of sharing, both as a piece of history from a cooking legacy and as an inspirational example. To learn more about Julia Child, you can check out the sites listed below or check out your local library for any one of the several biographies available. (In the article named after her, Wikipedia mentions what look to be some promising titles for reading more. Click here to be taken directly to that list.) 

Best wishes!

Resources for this post:
"Julia Child" Wikipedia article accessed 24 October 2013
Harry Ransom Center site featuring a letter from Julia Child to Judith Jones accessed 24 October 2013


  1. fascinating! It's so fun seeing her letters. I love that she wanted to give the cookbook a title that was completely in French. Only someone who really, really loves french food would think that a good marketing strategy for a U.S. audience. ;-) A few years ago, I read an autobiography of Julia Child called My Life in France that I thoroughly enjoyed. I definitely recommend it.

    1. I thought so, too, Lynnelle. And thanks for the book recommendation! Since struggling to finish Irma Rombauer's biography, I had given up on finding a cook's bio that I would enjoy. I'll have to look into My Life in France!