Whilst Julia Child (1912-2006) may have turned American cuisine on its head through what was, in the 1960s, the revolutionary idea of introducing the ideals of the French cooking school to middle America, she was until very recently, far less of a household name in the UK and Europe. Her award-winning cookbooks couple with numerous series of television shows in a career which spread over four decades, became the model to which all future “TV Chefs” the world over would aspire – in essence she invented the idea of taking sophisticated cuisine and making it accessible to a wide audience. In a country that Europeans often wrongly see as a burger-guzzling nation, Julia Child was a woman who instilled passion into the food culture of the United States and beyond, often through the sheer force of her personality.
Without doubt one of her most famous cookbooks and one that is considered something of a seminal publication is Mastering the Art of French Cooking. First published in 1961 by Knopf it was followed by a second volume in 1970. Praised for many of the things we now take for granted in a cookery book, such as clear illustrations and easy to follow instructions, the book is still in print to this day. Child's second book, The French Chef Cookbook, was a collection of the recipes she had demonstrated on a television show of the same name. When the series went into colour television this was reflected in her fourth book, From Julia Child's Kitchen, which was illustrated with her husband's photographs. Julia Child's last book , an autobiography My Life in France, was published in 2006 although sadly, she didn't live to see it in print.
And so we come to 2009, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking is top of the bookseller charts again thanks to the movie Julie & Julia, directed by Nora Ephron and starring none other than Meryl Streep as Julia Child. Based on the eponymous book by the blogger Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams in the movie) who set herself the staggering task of cooking all 524 recipes from the book and kept a daily blog of her culinary adventures.
Needless to say vintage copies of any cookery books signed by Julia Child are suddenly highly collectible!