Foodies paid tribute Wednesday to celebrity chef Julia Child, marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the woman who introduced Americans to exotic French delicacies like boeuf bourguignon.
Across the United States, 100 restaurants celebrated with Child-inspired menus during the Julia Child Restaurant Week, which runs August 7-15.
“Happy 100th birthday to one (of) my idols, the one and only #JuliaChild!” cooking show host Paula Deen tweeted.
A mock birthday party for Child, who died just short of her 92nd birthday in 2004, was held at the National Museum of American History, where her renowned Cambridge, Massachusetts kitchen is on display.
Cheryl Fuentes, visiting the exhibit from nearby Alexandria, Virginia, said she hoped “to get the cooking recipes” adored by much of the American public before returning home.
Child used the kitchen as the set of three television shows and for testing many of the recipes featured in her cookbooks, such as the now indispensable “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” first published in 1961.
She is often credited with ushering in the fresh food movement in the United States and introducing French cuisine and cooking techniques to a mainstream audience through her books and television programs.
“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients,” Child told her apprentices.
Julie Powell, whose autobiography “Julie and Julia” was turned into an Oscar-nominated movie featuring Meryl Streep, remembered how Child “taught me to cook — and live.”
Child “helped create a culture that takes eating seriously, that sees food as not just fuel but as craft and, sometimes, art,” Powell wrote in the Los Angeles Times.
But Child also served as a spy during World War II with the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the Central Intelligence agency (CIA), where she worked as a typist and researcher and was even sent to Sri Lanka and China.
Her life as an expatriate helped form Child’s discriminating taste.
American “food in China was terrible; we thought it was cooked by grease monkeys,” she wrote.
“The Chinese food was wonderful and we ate out as often as we could. That is when I became interested in food… I just loved Chinese food.”
During the war, the California native met her husband Paul, a foodie who had lived in Paris.
After the war, Paul’s post with the State Department brought the couple back to France, where the soon-to-be-famous chef took up courses at the Cordon Bleu culinary school.
She later founded L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes (The School of the Three Happy Eaters) in the 1950s in Paris with French chefs Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.
The three women taught American students how to cook French food. Though the school was disbanded when Childs moved to Marseille in 1953, its spirit lived on when Child pinned the school’s logo to her blouse years later before each televised cooking program.
At the National Museum of American History, hundreds of tools, appliances and furnishings were arranged just as she left them when she donated the kitchen to the museum in 2001.
The self-proclaimed “knife freak” kept her large collection within easy reach on magnetic strips between the kitchen windows and above the sink.
The piece de resistance was Child’s Garland six-burner, commercial gas oven range, manufactured in the 1950s.
The stove had already been used in a restaurant when the Childs purchased it for $429 in Washington in 1956, and the cook long praised her “big Garland.”
[Photo credit: MDCarchives via Wikimedia]