Julia Child: What I Have Learned

Julia Child Anyone who’s witnessed Julia Child on TV knows without a doubt that the woman was witty. And not just when it came to good-natured cracks about her ambling about in her kitchen. Julia Child had ample opinions and observations, bless her, about most things—and she wasn’t shy about sharing them. Today, on her birthday, we find ourselves more than a little nostalgic for Julia Child—both her inimitable way in the kitchen as well as her simple yet profound way with words. Rather than inundate you with yet more prose lamenting how we miss her so, we thought we’d simply share some of her most profound thoughts. Here, a glimpse at one of the interviews with Julia Child that we treasure the most, conducted with Esquire’s Mike Sager years ago. These lessons are certainly ones we’ll tape to our fridge, and think you may do so, too.—David Leite

  • Fat gives things flavor.
  • People are uncertain because they don’t have the self-confidence to make decisions.
  • The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry soufflé. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it.
  • Playing golf with men can throw off your stroke.
  • I’m all for hunger among the well-to-do. For comfortable people, hunger is a very nice quality. For one thing, it means you’re healthy. And I love the anticipation.
  • Being tall is an advantage, especially in business. People will always remember you. And if you’re in a crowd, you’ll always have some clean air to breathe.
  • There is nothing worse than grilled vegetables.
  • Celebrity has its uses: I can always get a seat in any restaurant.
  • I was faced by my nieces and good friends and told I shouldn’t drive my car anymore. Actually, I find I’m not quite as alert as I used to be, and it would be awful to kill somebody. So now I don’t drive, and it is real hell, because you can’t rush down to the store and get a bunch of parsley if you have the whim, or do something like that. It’s just awful not driving, because you have to depend on other people. You get used to it, though. They have a bus here—I haven’t tried it yet, but I shall.
  • A cookbook is only as good as its poorest recipe.
  • I hate organized religion. I think you have to love thy neighbor as thyself. I think you have to pick your own God and be true to him. I always say “him” rather than “her.” Maybe it’s because of my generation, but I don’t like the idea of a female God. I see God as a benevolent male.
  • Tears mess up your makeup.
  • I’m awfully sorry for people who are taken in by all of today’s dietary mumbo jumbo. They are not getting any enjoyment out of their food.
  • Moderation. Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health. You need to enjoy the good things in life, but you need not overindulge.
  • I went into a doctor’s office the other day and all the people—you know, the nurses and the receptionists and even the patients—were sort of short-tempered and not very nice. And it made me think, I just want to bop them over the head. It’s terribly important to keep a good temper.
  • I don’t eat between meals. I don’t snack. Well, I do eat those little fish crackers. They’re fattening, but irresistible.
  • If you’re in a good profession, it’s hard to get bored, because you’re never finished—there will always be work you haven’t yet done.
  • The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time.
  • The problem with the world right now is that we don’t have any politicians like Roosevelt or Churchill to give us meaning and depth. We don’t have anyone who’s speaking for the great and the true and the noble. What we need now is a heroic type, someone who could rally the people to higher deeds. I don’t know what’s to become of us.
  • You must have discipline to have fun.
  • Drama is very important in life: You have to come on with a bang. You never want to go out with a whimper. Everything can have drama if it’s done right. Even a pancake.
  • I don’t believe in heaven. I think when we die we just go back to the great ball of energy that makes up the universe.
  • Hell only exists on earth, when you’ve made mistakes and you’re paying for them.
  • I don’t think about whether people will remember me or not. I’ve been an okay person. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve taught people a thing or two. That’s what’s important. Sooner or later the public will forget you, the memory of you will fade. What’s important is the individuals you’ve influenced along the way.
  • Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?

More about Julia Child

    [© 2011 Excerpted from Eat Like a Man | Permission granted by Chronicle Books. All rights reserved.



    1. I have a good Julia story to share. A Catholic priest friend of mine was doing some post graduate work at Harvard Divinity School around 1970 and was a huge Julia Child fan. Every day he would go for a walk in Cambridge neighborhoods and hoped he would be able to discern the location of the Child’s home and walk by it one day.

      He found out what the address was and so added this route to his daily walk. He kept telling himself that one day, perhaps, he would get up the nerve to go up and ring the doorbell and just say to the butler, or maid, or whoever answered the door, that he was a huge fan and thank you for everything–the general good wishes one conveys to a beloved celeb.

      Finally, one day he did just that. He rang the doorbell and waited for what seemed an eternity and was about to leave when the door opened and it was Julia herself standing there. He quickly added that not only was she standing there, but she was holding a bowl and whisk. He stammered and stuttered as she said, “yes? can I help you?” He was trying to give his “I adore you so much” spiel when she said: “I am in the middle of recipe testing and right in the thick of things, would you like to come in and join me in the kitchen so we can visit?” Would he????!!! He did indeed go in and chat all afternoon with her. He would run into her at the local markets as well, and they had several other chats in that Cambridge kitchen during his time there.

    2. Great collection of some of her best! I won’t forget about her. As a child, I used to rue the times when it was her on the tube instead of the scheduled Sesame Street. By 12 I was watching her with utter fascination and making crepes with her and trying to figure our how to convince my Mom that we needed to make a Buche de Noel with caramel strands all around it for Christmas. One my fave quotes from her “The Way To Cook” about her own Cambridge Cake: ” I’d rather have the tiniest sliver of this beauty than several helpings of diet Carrot Cake.” Vive Julia! Reine de la cuisine!!

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