On what would have been her 100th birthday, Julia Child is remembered for her remarkable mastery of cooking, her bravery, her wit. But what I remember about her is her unfailing curiosity.
By the time I met Julia, her TV days were past, and she was feted as a legend, a sort of culinary fairy godmother. Though I had helped cover her 80th birthday party and had been to her house in Cambridge, I wasn’t in her inner circle. But after her 9oth birthday, when Julia was moving back to California for the last time, packing up her Cambridge kitchen for the Smithsonian, Sheryl Julian, my editor at the Boston Globe, invited me along on a last lunch with Julia.
The food at that lunch was unremarkable, though I do recall Julia’s pointed, if polite, comment when iced tea in a can was placed before her . “What, you don’t brew it here?” she asked with slightly raised eyebrows. And I also remember the conversation. Julia asked me all about my growing up, as intently interested in my rural, almost communal, upbringing in Kansas as I was fascinated about her storied career. She was engaged, funny, and observant. One couldn’t have had a better dining companion.
No wonder everyone loved her, I remember thinking. Yes, Julia irrevocably changed Americans’ idea of food. But her way of connecting vibrantly with almost everyone she met made her a star.