Happy 109th Birthday to Julia Child

Long before the movie Julie and Julia was released, I was a fan of Julia Child. Nearly every episode of The French Chef on Chicago’s WTTW Public Broadcasting Station was ingrained in my tween and teen-age memory. 
So when the chance for me, an 18-year old sophomore in college, to attend a cooking event held by Julia Child, I could not pass up the opportunity. 
This is how my black and white photo of Julia Child became one of my most prized photos.
Julia Child cooking demonstration at Burdine's Department Store, 1971.
Yes, that’s an egg that she’s cracking for her demonstration.

Meeting Julia Child at a Cooking Demonstration

With luck, timing and my trusty Canon FTb, I shot this photo of Julia Child way back in 1971. I was a photography and mass communication major at the University of Miami and also worked part-time at Burdine’s department store at Dadeland Mall.
While on my break time in the employee lunchroom, I noticed someone had thumb-tacked a pale green flyer on the bulletin board. Curious, I walked over to take a look at it. To my total astonishment, the flyer announced that Julia Child was scheduled to do a cooking demonstration in the third floor auditorium the following week. Admission required a free ticket, available at the store’s main office.
Immediately after seeing this, I raced over to Burdine’s HR office. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity or take a chance to not get a ticket to meet her and watch her cooking demonstration.
Arriving early to get a front row seat, my camera and note pad in tow, I was perfectly seated front row center. After a brief introduction by someone from the store’s Home department, Julia Child made a modest entrance, despite the overwhelming applause. 
And a mere 45 years later, Julia’s kitchen pegboard on the left, and mine on the right. When I picked out the color, it was accidentally Evening in Paris.
In her easily recognizable voice, she went on to talk a bit about nutrition and her love for eggs  Then she explained what she was about to cook. I watched with intensity as Julia cracked a dozen eggs, one at a time (see photo) and demonstrated how to make a real French omelet. No, not those fold-over omelets stuffed with gooey orange cheese that we’re used to eating in America. 
In step-by-step instructions, as the skillet become hot, she explained how to properly cook a French Omelette. Into the pan went a chunk of butter. Waiting for the foam on the butter to subside, she continued to beat the eggs until yolks and whites were smoothly combined. 
Quickly, she poured the eggs into the hot skillet, and swirled them around and around in the oversized skillet until the eggs just began to set. With a series of tugging motions on the skillet, she worked the flat not-fully-cooked eggs until they had completely flipped over and were cooked. 
Holding the large skillet with an underhand grip on the handle, she rolled the eggs out of the pan and onto a platter, folding the now-omelet almost tube-like in the process. A proper French Omelette looks like a beautiful fluff of pale yellow with nothing stuffed or melted inside of it. 
Then came the biggest surprise. With knife and fork in hand, Julia sliced the hot omelet into tiny bite-sized pieces. Next, she walked off the stage carrying the platter of the sliced and diced omelet.
As if hostessing us in her own home, she handed everyone a small paper plate and fork and gently placed a dab of the eggs on our plates. And with every plate she handed out, she would respond to everyone’s “thank you” with a few words of acknowledgement.
So yes, Julia cooked for me, and about 50 other women.
After the demonstration, I rushed back to campus to use the school’s camera lab and darkroom to develop the photos. The one with Julia cracking the egg was the best of the lot.

Why This Photo and Meeting Julia Child Was So Important for Me

Going back to the early 1960’s, my dad and I would watch episodes of The French Chef on our old Zenith black and white television. He’d reminisce about his many days stationed in Paris during and after the war and his ensuing love of French food.
Shortly after the extraordinary experience of Julia Child’s cooking demonstration, I was unexpectedly called back to Chicago. My dad underwent surgery for lung cancer and was in the hospital. I flew back to Miami a few days later to finish the semester then packed all my possessions into my 1964 red Chevy Super Sport and drove home.
One of the first items I brought to my dad’s hospital bed was this framed photo of Julia Child. He had been excited to learn of her cooking demonstration a few months earlier and was delighted to have the photo by his bedside. It gave us a lot to talk and smile about, despite his steadily declining health. 
When he passed away only a few months later, his framed photo of Julia was placed beside him as the coffin lid was closed. 
These days, whenever I work on my totally awkward French cooking skills, I’m reminded of meeting Julia and the fun my dad and I had while watching her on TV.
And yes, I have another copy this photo hanging in my kitchen…for culinary inspiration and wonderful memories.

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  1. Hi Lisanne,
    Another Chicagoan? Thanks very much for taking the time for your comment. The pegboard was the only way to fit all of my pans in my tiny kitchen and luckily there was a small empty wall space. Funny about a 1964 Chevy Super Sport at nearly $45K now. I paid $1,000 for it used in the summer of 1969. Hah! Thank you also for reading the article and subscribing to my newsletter.

  2. Hi Trish,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to read the story! I had so much fun recalling and writing the post – a real stroll down memory lane. Thank you also for your kind comment. Much appreciated.

  3. Thank you for these wonderful moments in your life with your dad and Julia Child.😍

  4. Have to love WTTW (PBS in general) for programming we adored when young.
    We have no wall space for our cast iron pans … but genius!
    BTW, a 1964 Supersport will set you back around $45K now. Yikes.

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