On June 22, 2002, I interviewed Julia Child at her home in Santa Barbara. After ten minutes of ringing the front doorbell, I timidly ventured round to the home’s backyard to find her seated on a patio vibrant with plantings and comfy outdoor furniture. She greeted me with a hand wave and smile, gesturing that I should join her.
I came bearing gifts: an apron I’d sewn especially for Ms. Child and a bottle of champagne. Ms. Child unwrapped the apron – all ruffles and at least 10 sizes too small – held it up and in her distinctive voice said, “Oh, dearie, dainty doesn’t do in the kitchen.” Then she sweetly handed it back to me. I quickly produced hostess gift #2. Sliding the bottle out of its bag, she rewarded this present with a nod and murmured notation that this gift she would not be returning. 
Seated across from one another at a small cloth covered table, we chit chatted as she ate a simple lunch of an unadorned hamburger patty and sipped a pint carton of milk through a little straw. We conversed about my apron journey, the storytellers whose apron memories I’d collected, and her personal apron story. In case my tape recorder failed to capture every syllable of her priceless recollection, I took down her words on a little notepad, utilizing a sort of frantic shorthand I hoped to God would later be decipherable. 
Ms. Child told me that she hadn’t much experience in the kitchen nor had she ever worn an apron, until she met her husband. Newly married in 1949, they moved to France, where she tasted French food and knew right then she wanted to learn about French cooking. Following the tradition of the Cordon Bleu cooking school, she began wearing the chef-type blue denim apron with a towel draped over the waist ties. When Paul and I cooked together, he wore the same type apron, only folding the bib at the waist and hanging a towel from the apron pocket.
As soon as she began talking about her husband, sadness misted her face, and no longer was I sitting across from an icon; rather, I was in the presence of a woman who’d lost the love of her life. Paul and I always had breakfast and most of our meals with one another. After his retirement, we often ate at home in our kitchen. Upon his death in 1994, Paul and I had eaten together for almost fifty years. Fifty years.

Sitting across from Ms. Child, I watched as she tidied the cutlery on the plate. One day, I thought, I could be you…alone at a table with memories of my prince charming as a luncheon companion.  Right then, I resolved to be grateful my husband comes home every day for lunch, to make his sandwich with love, to sit down at the table as he eats, and abide Sports Center in the background as he recounts his morning at work. For one day, I may know of Julia Child’s loss and heartache.  

Interview complete, we walked single file from the back patio through the house, with her in the lead on a shiny blue walker with handle bars, hand brakes and a basket. Graciousness personified, she acquiesced to my request for a photo of her n the doorway of the kitchen – a miniature replica of the kitchen now housed in the Smithsonian. 

 
Interview completed, we walked from the back patio through the house – single file, with her in the lead on a shiny blue walker with handle bars, hand brakes, and a basket. Graciousness itself, she acquiesced to my request for a photo of her in the doorway of the kitchen. Perched on a stool, she pointed out the pegboard wall with its hooks holding assorted utilities as similar to the kitchen in the home she and her husband had lived in, and a wall-mounted microwave that was more an annoyance than convenience. Kitchen chit chat with Julia Child. I willed myself not to hyperventilate.

 

 
he digital recording of that interview has been in a fireproof box for the past 7 years, so fearful have I been of taping over it. There’s over sixty minutes of conversation, revelation, homey and personal advice…all fodder for a whole slew of blogs (tags: foreign, food, language, writing, cookbooks, celebrity, chef, teacher, hostess, wife, wisdom). 



Ms. Child told me that she hadn’t much experience in the kitchen nor had she ever worn an apron, until she met her husband. Newly married in 1949, they moved to France, where she tasted French food and knew right then she wanted to learn about French cooking. Following the tradition of the Cordon Bleu cooking school, she began wearing the chef-type blue denim apron with a towel draped over the waist ties. When Paul and I cooked together, he wore the same type apron, only folding the bib at the waist and hanging a towel from the apron pocket.
As soon as she began talking about her husband, sadness misted her face, and no longer was I sitting across from an icon; rather, I was in the presence of a woman who’d lost the love of her life.
Paul and I always had breakfast and most of our meals with one another. After his retirement, we often ate at home in our kitchen. Upon his death in 1994, Paul and I had eaten together for almost fifty years. Fifty years.
Sitting across the table from Ms. Child, I watched as she tidied the cutlery on the plate. One day, I thought, I could be you…alone at a table, with memories of my prince charming as a luncheon companion.
Right then, I resolved to be grateful my husband comes home every day for lunch, to make his sandwich with love, to sit down at the table as he eats, and to abide Sports Center in the background as he recounts his morning at work.  For one day, I will likely know of Julia Child’s loss and heartache.
T

The digital recording of that interview has been in a fireproof box for a decade, so fearful have I been of erasing it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *