“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” ~ Julia Child
He was ten years older, a worldly intellect, artist, poet, photographer and connoisseur of fine wine and cuisine who spoke fluent French. He thought she was “wildly emotional” and “unfocused,” and, “brave about being an old maid.”
She was a 30-something-year-old late bloomer, six foot two (or three or four) to his five foot ten, who preferred sports and socializing to academics, a self-professed “hungry hayseed” far more comfortable wielding golf clubs and tennis racquets than knives or whisks. She was disappointed in his “light hair which is not on top, an unbecoming blond mustache and a long unbecoming nose.”
After they met working for the OSS, food brought them closer — curry luncheons forging a friendship in Ceylon, Chinese meals fanning the flames in Kunming, a French luncheon of sole meunière in Rouen sparking a lifelong passion that would ultimately instigate a food revolution in America.
Just goes to show what a good man and the right meal can do.
Paul not only introduced Julia to the joys and wonders of fine cuisine, he staunchly supported her every step of the way — from her enrollment at Le Cordon Bleu, through the roller coaster decade of writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking, to her illustrious television career. This brand of singular devotion was all the more admirable in a time of burgeoning feminism, when many resented the challenge to prevailing middle class values. Paul clearly enjoyed his wife’s success, happy to remain in the background while she basked in the spotlight.
Julia herself once told eminent food writer Ruth Reichl, “He’s responsible for everything I did,” and in a 2001 Smithsonian video said, “If we could just have the kitchen and the bedroom, that would be all we need.” Is that a love story for the ages or what? He was the moon to her sun, the perfect yin to her yang.
When it came to poetry, Julia was Paul’s favorite subject. He often wrote sonnets for her birthday, reveling in a dash of playful poetic teasing and double entendre.
Here’s one he wrote in 1961, the year Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume One) was first published by Knopf. If you click through to read the rest, you’ll find another sonnet from 1945, written the year before they were married.
by Paul Child
O Julia, Julia, Cook and nifty wench,
Whose unsurpassed quenelles and hot soufflés,
Whose English, Norse and German, and whose French,
Are all beyond my piteous powers to praise –
Whose sweetly-rounded bottom and whose legs,
Whose gracious face, whose nature temperate,
Are only equalled by her scrambled eggs:
Accept from me, your ever-loving mate,
This acclamation shaped in fourteen lines
Whose inner truth belies its outer sight;
These lines of adoration from a man who married Julia “in spite of her cooking,” who endured a messy meal of calves’ brains simmered in red wine, who was not deterred in the least by stories of a pancake disaster or an exploding duck that set the oven on fire. Julia learned to cook to please Paul. In the end, she won his heart as well as ours.
True love magically transforms the right ingredients into mouthwatering dishes, an unlikely friendship into a passionate love affair and enduring partnership capable of changing the way an entire nation eats, cooks and thinks about food. When Julia received an honorary doctorate from Harvard in 1993, the citation read, “A Harvard friend and neighbor who has filled the air with common sense and uncommon scents. Long may her soufflés rise.”
Merci beaucoup, Julia and Paul. Toujours Bon Appétit!
The lovely and talented Mary Lee is hosting today’s Roundup at A Year of Reading. Why not take a chocolate soufflé or soupe à l’oignon to her impromptu picnic? Enjoy your weekend!
“We had a happy marriage because we were together all the time. We were friends as well as husband and wife. We just had a good time.”~ Julia Child
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♥ GIVEAWAY REMINDERS ♥
Still time to enter any or all three Julia Giveaways:
- Alphabet Soup 5th Birthday Giveaway (Dearie by Bob Spitz and a miniature foodie necklace by Catrina’s Toybox). Deadline: Saturday, August 18, 2012
- Minette’s Feast Giveaway, Deadline: August 19, 2012
- Bon Appétit! Giveaway, Deadline: August 21, 2012.
Thanks for joining us during Julia’s 100th Birthday Week Celebration! Have a delicious, decidedly French weekend .
**Special thanks to the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University and The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts for permission to post archival photos.
Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.