episode 42 :: happy birthday, julia!


Saturday, August 15th would have been Julia Child’s 97th birthday. So, in honor of her special day, I want you to join me in celebrating the life of the most influential food writer in the history of food, and writing. It’s a one trick pony this time, kids. It’s all about Julia.

In this episode, I put aside my angst to share Julia’s history, including some lesser known facts about her (she was a World War II spy, and she loved McDonald’s french fries). Then we’ll go to my kitchen and make vichyssoise from Julia’s book The French Chef Cookbook, which pairs quite well with Chimay Cinq Cents, thank you very much.

Listen to Episode 42 here.

You can buy Julia’s cookbooks on Amazon.com:
Mastering the Art of French Cooking
The French Chef Cookbook

Also, purchase the show’s theme music by Edith Piaf from the iTunes Store for 99 cents. That’s cheaper than an order of McDonald’s fries . . . I think.


  1. Phil,

    Great show and yes, Julia was my first teacher and I remember watching her with me mum on TV. I loved the episodes where she hit the sherry a bit hard and would ramble on a story that would eventually take too much time.

    The major difference between a Belgian and a French is how quick they are to surrender… and Chimay.

    Take care,

    • Kirk, that was the best joke I’ve heard all week. 🙂 I love it. Thanks for your comments! Julia was quite the drinker, and that made her even cooler to me.

  2. Great tribute to Julia Child, Phil. I had no idea she was a WWII spy! Now there’s a book I wouldn’t mind reading.

    Also, good to hear you cooking in the kitchen. Now I feel like making something.


    • Hi Bill! You know, if you feel like making something, you can’t go wrong with potato/leek soup. 🙂


  3. Great show. Thanks for the recipe!

    Julia Child has always been an inspiration to me–mainly, because she didn’t really start cooking until she was thirty, so I have room to improve!

    As for the PETA guy, I’m not surprised the coward didn’t respond to your query. These guys live in their own little cocoons of misinformation. My sister is reading the book “Skinny Bitch,” which is nothing more than a thinly vieled demonization of meat. How can you be healthier and holier than thou if you’re eating unnatural processed “cheese” and soy products that give men bitch tits (just kidding, but we’ve all been over the evils and possible cancer inducing properties of soy–and unnatural amounts of plant estrogen for men)…

    • Thanks Jennifer! I think what impressed me the most was how late in the game Julia became an accomplished cook. There is something to be said for that never-say-die attitude. It’s a lesson we can all learn from.

      And yes, PETA is a total cop-out. They’re attention whores, that’s all. It seems the minute you ask them to back up their claims, they clam up.

      As for that book “Skinny Bitch,” it’s come up quite a bit recently. My wife started reading it and got half-way through it before she realized the woman was a hardcore vegan who hated meat, food, and (apparently) a happy life. If the key to being skinny is to not eat, you may as well just call me a fat ass and be on your way. That’s no life for me.

      • oooh, so glad your wife didn’t like ‘skinny bitch’ … I seriously got through about 3 pages before I was like … uh, you’re swapping out REAL food for ‘healthy’ processed junk? AND telling me I’m a fat cow? Bitch, please!


        Love the show, as always … and I”m gonna try the soup soon. I have two leeks in my fridge screaming at me to do something!

  4. Phil,
    Great show as always. I am now inspired to make vichyssoise thanks to your demonstration!

    Like most of us, I grew up watching Julia on PBS as well. She was definitely my first inspiration to start cooking (along with my parents, of course). That show lead me to others, including the Frugal Gourmet Jeff Smith, Graham Kerr, the hilarious Martin Yan of “Yan Can Cook” and my favorite, cajun chef Justin Wilson.

    Thanks for mentioning Total Wine & More. I have only recently discovered the place and it is really terrific. I had the Chimay Grande Reserve this weekend and it was quite good.

    Bon appetit!

    • Thanks for your comments, Steve. I’m glad to see so many people who made the Julia connection when they were young too. It truly was an eye-opening experience, being a kid and watching this woman cook fancy things so casually. She’d drop stuff on the floor and just laugh and continue with her demo.

      Also good to read that you’re a Total Wine fan. I can’t tell people enough just how cool they are, how hard they’re working to get the best beer, wine, and spirits to us for the most reasonable prices possible. Where BevMo has fallen short, Total Wine has picked it up.

  5. thanks for the great tribute, phil,
    julia is a phenom, and after reading “my life in france” (highly recommended to anyone who loves food and just about anyone else too) i just loved her even more. my life was changed growing up with her re-runs and program with jacques pepin, paul prudomme (aka the cajun dom deluise), and my favorite, jeff smith (the frugal gourmet, who was practically black-listed in the television food world for playing grab-ass with some assistant chefs back in the 70s, which certainly don’t happen today). i grew up wanted to be a chef because of them. that changed once i started working in kitchens, but i never lost my desire for cooking. these shows made it fun to cook, and smith made it appeal to younger people especially. no show does that anymore today… maybe “good eats”. it’s all food porn, giada’s cleavage, and competitions. real food isn’t about competition, it’s about the love, and that’s what julia (and jeff and martin and graham and paul) had for it.

    one of the most memorable “french chef” episodes was when she had this 50 lb lobster on set, it was insane!

    the galloping gourmet! getting a beat down for being a little galloping gourmet! that would definitely happen 😀

    cheers, man

    • Awesome that you too read her book, Nik. There were spots in that book where I felt she was a bit unfair to her husband, but in the end it all worked out for them. She worked incredibly hard on those recipes. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for them back then. The limited resources alone would have discouraged me from putting together those recipes.

      I’ve never seen the episode with the 50 pound lobster, but I came across a picture of that beast recently and it was almost laughable how large it was. I have to wonder what that thing tasted like.

      And yes, I’d have received quite the ass whooping had I galloped my little 8-year old gourmet ass down the street where I was living at the time. Mom protected me as always.

  6. Hahahaha LOVE the Julia intro!

    I think our mom’s came from the same cut. I had wanted to learn to cook as a kid and would constantly get kicked out of the kitchen. Eventually I gave up and stuck with baseball. Now when we go to mom’s its Lushie and I who cook. Nothing against my mom but I never knew what flavor was until I spent my first holiday with her family.

    I would love a 50’s cookbook. Was probably all lard, cigarettes and gin.

    • Thanks Spoon. As I said, I don’t blame my mother for refusing to let me cook when I was young. I guess I only hoped someone would step in and start cooking in that kitchen besides my mother. Granted, I loved the woman, but her food was rough. When you’re craving TV dinners over your own mother’s cooking, that’s a sign that things are pretty freakin’ bad.

      Funny about the cookbook. 😀 Even Mastering the Art of French Cooking calls for a few ingredients that aren’t all that easy to find anymore (if they exist at all).

  7. Great tribute to Julia Child, Phil. I was always a fan of hers growing up. She seemed to go against the grain when the grain was pretty damned straight.

    I read “My Life in France” a while back. I came away with a far, far different view of Julia Child than I went into it with. Truly one of the most fascinating people to me. Her childhood, relationship with her father and siblings, her life with Paul. Definitely not the woman I thought she was.

    • Hey Drew,

      I know what you mean. I had the same feelings as I read her book. There were parts in there where I thought she was being unfair to Paul – almost kind of bitchy. Here he was worried about keeping his job, and how much it would suck if they had to leave France, and she tells him to quit being such a pain in the ass and lighten up. I doubt she realized it at the time, but that had to make him feel a little worse.

  8. Another great show Phil, and I love the kitchen segment. The audio was really clear and it made me very hungry!!!! I need some of that soup right now.

    I was very anxious to see the movie “Julie & Julia”, especially after seeing some old Julia Child cooking shows on PBS.org (as you mentioned and everyone should see these online).

    The movie did not disappoint. Meryl Streep does a perfect Julia Child and I thought the movie was very humorous and very enjoyable. Maybe it’s because I always enjoyed watching Julia’s cooking shows on PBS and her generous use of butter and wine.

    Funny that you said she liked to drink on her show, because when she cooked with Jacques Pepin it became obvious that both she and Jacques (who she called “Jack”) were especially fond of a glass or two. Not for everyone, but I thought it was a good movie! I had heard gripings about the switch back and forth, but didn’t really bother me, though I found the Julia parts my favorite over the Julie parts. Too frantic for my tastes.

    • Thanks for your comments, G. I never knew she called Jacques Pepin “Jack.” That’s hilarious.

      Like I said, I don’t think anyone could have pulled off playing Julia like Streep did. You put another actress in there, and you’re more than likely not watching. And no matter how weak the Julie side of the story may have been, having Amy Adams in there was another good choice.

      Again, not a man’s man type of movie — it’s very much a girl flick. But you won’t walk away from this movie and not want to go home and cook. Like when you saw Sideways in the theatre. How many people went directly to a store and bought wine on the way home? I know I did. This is why we need a really good beer movie.

  9. Merci Phil! For the really great tribute to one of my food and cooking heroes! Really enjoyed this one a lot. You captured her spirit quite well. As you wandered down cooking show memory lane it could have been me talking. I loved the (very drunk) Galloping Gourmet and Julia’s shows. I don’t think my mother had any idea what I was watching or how it would influence me. Vichyssoise is a perfect food. I used to make Julia’s recipe all the time for my French family. As you and others have said above, and I have written, Julia taught me to cook. Here’s to Julia!

    • Thanks Charles. Coming from you, I definitely appreciate that.

      Looking back at Pixar’s Ratatouille, it was never more apparent that Gusteau and his book “Anyone Can Cook” was a nod in Julia’s direction. Because she really convinced us all that you don’t have to be a classically trained chef to cook authentic French food at home.

  10. Phil! Thank you for another great show and great tribute to Julia Child!!
    She was an inspiration for many people including me.

    • Thanks Afaf. I appreciate you taking the time to listen, and to comment.

      When I was scouring the internet for audio clips, I ended up on YouTube. It’s amazing how many people loved Julia Child. But it’s also troubling to see kids who have no idea who she was making nasty comments about the way she talked, or how she was insufferable to watch (although, I doubt they used that word) and they had to turn it off.

      Our generation – we’re all pretty lucky to have had her.

  11. I was sure I left a comment on this… Hmmmmm… Loved this little ode to Julia. I was never a foodie… But, I did start to get into her vibe when she did the show with Jacque Pepan. She had this footloose and fancy-free attitude that took me back. She was having a blast. And she was ready to mix things up right there while being recorded. I imagine working with her was a blast.

    Also… I would LOVE to hear more about this twitter war with PETA people. What a riot! For the record… My kids would take that Unhappy meal. As long as it came with LEGOS or American girl. Who cares what foods inside!

  12. […] Phil at My Life as a Foodie told me I needed to try potato leek soup. He’d recently done a podcast on Julia Child and shared her recipe on the air. I skipped it the first time for pea and leek risotto, which was […]

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