Thirty years before Julie, of book and movie fame, discovered Julia Child, my college roommate and I taught ourselves to cook by making every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Disenchanted with my first career choice, I discovered a new interest in the kitchen.
I went to culinary school and began to teach cooking, but was conflicted about this new direction.
Not long after while in New York at a conference for cooking teachers, I found myself sitting next to Julia Child. She inquired about my future plans and, slightly star-struck, I confessed my fears. Her eyes lit up and, in her trilling voice, she enthused, “It’s a great career, Dearie. Go for it!”
I did indeed “go for it,” and over the next 20 years I was lucky enough to keep in touch with her. Every time I saw her she never failed to ask how that career was going.
When I lived in Boston I spent a day crouched under the counter while she taped her live TV show. My job was to take the used dishes she surreptitiously handed down to me to keep the counter clean. My only instruction was to never let my own hands show as I reached for those bowls, pans, spoons. I failed, and somewhere on one of those old tapes, a hand suddenly reaches up from nowhere to grab a bowl. Mon dieu!
When she retired from the board of the organization where I’d first met her, I was fortunate to be elected to take her place. At the ceremonies, I asked her for words of wisdom for successfully filling that seat. She peered down from her 6-foot-2-inch height at my nearly 5-feet self and said, “Well, Judith, I think you’ll need a stepstool!”