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At a Screening of 'Julie & Julia,' Friends Remember Julia Child

To a country infatuated with cake mixes, TV dinners and instant foods that would not mess up the kitchen, Child and co-authors Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle brought a French sense of tradition, art and quality in food. Then for a decade starting in 1963, Child's wildly popular television program, "The French Chef," persuaded home cooks to venture into complicated territory.

These days, Americans have entered a new era of the homemade, and the film could help bring this generation of foodies back to Child. To coincide with the opening, the publishers have released new editions of "My Life in France" and Powell's book "Julie & Julia" with Streep and Adams on the cover. Even the latest edition of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" is being sold in a wrapper promoting the movie.

But at the French Culinary Institute, Child's friends had their own sense of how to honor her memory. It starts with stories.

"She was not a snob about food," said Berman, her publicist. "I remember lunch one day at her house: There was iceberg lettuce on the table, Hellmann's mayonnaise and chicken. I said, 'This chicken is delicious,' " only to have Child reveal that it had come from Costco. "She loved chicken and hot dogs from Costco," Berman said.

Child was particular about the setting for food, and when eating at a restaurant she would ask the staff to turn up the lights, said Rebecca Alssid, director of the gastronomy program at Boston University. "She would say, 'I don't eat what I can't see,' " Alssid recalled.

Pépin, who cooked with Child for years and drew her into his family circle, described her as "someone enticing that you would like to spend time with."

As he told yet another story, impersonating Child's trilling tone, he said, "You cannot talk about Julia without doing her voice."

Nowadays, few use Child's "Mastering the Art" because it calls for so much cream and butter, said Dorothy Cann Hamilton, the founder of the French Culinary Institute. After the film's release, she said, "I hope people will be eating more butter."


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