‘Julia’ Explained: Who Was Julia Child? How has she defined the position of food in popular culture?

The documentary film “Julia” chronicles the life and personality of the enigmatic cook, author and personality named Julia Child. Directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West present all the major aspects of Julia’s life and trace her rise in the television industry and its subsequent redefinition, with considerable prowess and simplistic storytelling. By the end, the figure of Julia Child as a beloved and honored woman in American households is very well established. All in all, “Julia” is a wonderful watch, recommendable to everyone, with mouth-watering visuals.


Who was Julia Child and how did she burst onto the American television scene?

Around 1962, American television had already unsuccessfully tried programs in the news-entertainment genre, and these programs were quite different from the current understanding of the genre. With few exceptions, in these shows, the male presenters would talk and discuss some of the science, literary work or other similar topics far away from ordinary viewers. It suddenly took an unexpected turn when a certain woman in her fifties, named Julia Child, made an appearance on a book review show on Boston’s WGBH-TV. The channel’s producer-director fondly remembers when the woman, with the particularly distinct voice, called her and asked to be provided with a hot plate for the show that night, where she had been invited to talk about his book “Mastering the Art of French Cuisine.” Although a very unusual request at the time, the griddle was well supplied and the wife, Julia Child, prepared a French omelette to, as she later said, relax the ‘vibe. Broadcasting such a thing happening, which was quite a spectacle at the time, the TV channel saw a surge in viewership and calls from viewers, which then gave them the idea to try a cooking show. WGBH-TV quickly shot three episodes of a series called “The French Chef” to test the market, with Julia Child cooking various French specialties, and the show instantly became a huge hit when it first aired in 1963.

At that time, cooking in the United States, and any public image of it, was strictly limited to convenient, quick, and easy-to-prepare foods. This primarily included microwaveable foods, pre-cooked packages that could be heated in an oven to quickly prepare a meal, and largely consisted of canned and processed frozen ingredients. Television commercials at this time also strongly advocated such a lifestyle, as that was how the eating habits of a common American household were. Therefore, when a woman was seen cooking appetizing dishes with fresh, common ingredients that could be found on any supermarket shelf, the country was nearly hit by a food storm. Men and women from across the Boston area at first, and then across the country, with Julia’s growing television presence, not only developed a particular interest in tasting French cuisine, but were also encouraged to take up cooking, even professionally by some. “The French Chef” had a very distinct feature that also helped it become instantly accessible to its viewers, which was that the show was unedited and shot in long takes. This meant that Julia’s mistakes would never be cut and edited from the show’s final product, but rather everything would be televised in its entirety. Julia graciously corrected her mistakes or sometimes even gave very quick improvisations on how a mistake could be used in another way, like making a different dish. Along with giving her viewers tips on how to handle such unwanted situations in the kitchen, she also instilled in thousands of people the belief that they too could easily cook, no matter how many mistakes they made. they were committing. Decades later, when new generations of professional chefs began to become household names and even celebrities in the United States, many (if not all) of them had Julia Child’s name on their list of greatest inspirations. . Professionals aside, thousands of ordinary American housewives have become lifelong fans and admirers of the charming TV chef, who has managed to add a brilliant change of flavor, literally, to their regular lives.

Julia Child’s brilliant, to say the least unforeseen, success also quickly paved a new path for the television infotainment genre that instantly became closer to ordinary people than high art or literature and intelligent science. The concept of a cooking program turned into a hit television show, where a chef is seen preparing dishes with locally available ingredients, had become a television staple almost everywhere by the time it became mainstream as a medium. An excerpt from “The French Chef” is shown at the start of “Julia” where the woman cooks roast chicken and then turns the dish a certain way saying she does so that whenever the viewer thinks of the chicken roasted, it gets that particular image of the dish in their mind. So many years later, such a visual concept is exactly how food products and restaurants advertise their dishes, with very similar presentations. “Julia” puts beyond doubt that Julia Child defined the position of food in television entertainment and also revolutionized food as a hugely important seat of popular culture as a whole. Her contribution to the field was much more than just as she became the first prominent female figure in American television (and perhaps even the world) at a time when women were primarily characterized as figures of background, or some kind of extended props for sale. things. However, now here is Julia; where she was the focus of her show, and it was instantly supported by viewers. Not only did she help put women first, but also do the same for professional chefs. Prior to his time, chefs and the act of cooking were largely shunned elements in culinary practice, but with his growing personality as a personality, the act of cooking also became one that was spotlighted and something which began to be celebrated.


What was Julia’s background and how was she introduced to French cuisine?

In addition to diving deep into the success and contributions of Julia Child, “Julia” explores the woman’s past and traces her own inspirations for becoming who she was. Julia was born in California into a fairly conservative family with a profitable business. Growing up, she had no cooking experience as all the meals in her house were prepared by hired cooks. At the time of World War II, Julia signed up as a typist primarily out of patriotic sentiment to help her country in any way possible, and was soon hired by the Office of Strategic Services, the US intelligence agency that later been turned into the CIA. While at the agency, she was sent to Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, and it was there that she first met fellow OSS member Paul Child. Although Paul was attracted to Julia’s physical appearance, she had no such initial feelings and the two began to be friends. Gradually, Julia became interested in Paul when they were later posted to China, particularly about what the man knew about the world and his interest in knowing more. After the war ended, they returned to the United States and were soon married, much to the dismay of Julia’s Republican father, as Paul was a liberal Democrat. With the war now over, the US government began sending people into the diplomatic corps, and Paul was soon posted to Paris because he knew French very well. This not only opened the doors of French cuisine to Julia, but also showed her how close food is to life. In France, food has always been considered part of life and even art, and this was easily felt by Julia during her stay in Paris. After realizing how far removed she was from her old life and American perspective, Julia enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu, the oldest culinary school in Paris. There she learned the art of cooking from top professional chefs. After a while, she met a woman named Simone Beck, or Simca as she was better known, and quickly befriended her. Along with Simone and her friend Louisette Bertholle, Julia began teaching cooking to other American women in France. Realizing that cookbooks at the time lacked the necessary detail, they began to write their own book with properly detailed recipes, but the work was rejected by an American publishing house who claimed it was too detailed and therefore difficult for the American masses. Eventually, however, the book was accepted and published when Julia Child returned to the United States, and it caught on. But, more importantly, this book titled “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” gave Julia the chance to appear on a book review show on WGBH-TV, and there was no going back. back.

The documentary film also beautifully showcases the personality of Julia, who was always very modest and down to earth even at the height of her success. Chefs and TV presenters who have had the experience of working with her testify to the ease and pleasure of working with her. Julia has also used her public icon image to show her support for important issues such as the employment of women in the food sector, planned parenthood and sex education. Although she was very anti-gay early in her life, she corrected her prejudices and changed her mind after the sad death of her lawyer and friend, Bob Johnson, who was a gay man who died of AIDS. Julia hosted a big AIDS charity show, as she was already a very established television personality at that time, and then came out pretty loud about her support for the queer community. Her husband and love of her life, Paul, continued to support her throughout their lives, even giving up his own career and ambitions to support his wife. Paul also provided her with supreme love and support during and after her recovery from breast cancer. Julia Child remained unwaveringly dedicated to her craft and her passion and continued to work even when she was 87 years old.

When Julia Child died in 2004 at the age of 91, her name was already shining in the pages of popular culture. “Julia” presents an entertaining story about how this singular woman has shaped the present when it comes to the appreciation of food and the role it plays in modern human life. The film’s editing and overall direction deserve praise, and overall, “Julia” is a really great watch.


“Julia” is a 2022 documentary film directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West.


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