Julia Child, 23 pounds slimmer from the Scarsdale diet and "in a holding pattern," is ready for takeoff as the new food editor for Parade magazine, with the first of her monthly columns to appear at the end of February.
Thus again, whenever one thinks Child has said everything that could be said on a subject and has done everything one could do in the food media, she finds a new dimension. Already she is appearing on network television with "Good Morning America" and is writing regularly for McCall's magazine. Her books and cooking demonstrations have infiltrated every corner of the heartland. And now she expects to reach a different audience -- "less homebody," "more men" and "more sophisticated," as she put it during a recent visit to Washington to attend a WETA anniversary dinner.
While in town, Child also met for tea with members of Washington's newly formed Les Dames d'Escoffier, an organization of women food professionals, and spoke of the changes in her life -- moving to Santa Barbara, Calif., for the winter months and thus shuttling between the two coasts of America rather than between America and France. In addition to her East Coast cooking team, she will be assembling a California crew to assist her. She also talked of the changes in her own cooking, of its having become more Americanized: "I treasure my French background . . . but don't feel fettered by it." Nouvelle cuisine, after all, started in America, Child reminded her listeners.
She has recently paid more attention to moderating the use of butter and cream in her cooking. "In 1949 and '50, you never thought about fattening things," she reminisced, choosing a nonfattening cucumber sandwich from the array of tea sandwiches, pastries and Devonshire cream.
But one change Child refuses to contemplate is yielding to the pressures of a hectic schedule by eating less well. Understandably, she is impatient with people who use working as an excuse to serve and eat inferior food. "I work all day," she said, pulling up to her full and impressive height, "but we always eat fresh food. The more you know about cooking, the faster you can do it."
Child says that she looks forward to being less fettered in Parade than she has been in her other media outlets. "You're not having a corporate breath breathing down your neck," she commented. She expects to be free to do whatever she wants and plans to concentrate on "how-to" things, including butchering one's own meat and exploring some of the more neglected subjects like suckling pigs and rabbits. Heretofore she has been plagued by protests from rabbit lovers when she tried to do rabbit. "The bunny people are just awful," she reported, shaking her head sternly at the very idea of them.
What she finds particularly exciting about the Parade venture is having three or four pages of color to work with in each of the monthly issues. The pages will include one main subject and several side issues. And as always, the photographs will be from the point of view of the cook, a technique that her husband Paul developed and that they finally revealed in her fourth book, only to find, as she noted, "Nobody copied it anyway."
One project Child did not mention, thus reinforcing her reputation for modesty, was her new fellowship program. She was willing to discuss it later, however: She has earmarked proceeds from her other projects to be awarded to one or two students a year under the Boston Permanent Charities Fund. Recipients are to be people who already have a college education or equivalent and have started on food careers, but want to perfect their skills abroad, "in France, which is still the place to go," Child explained. Students, therefore, must have a good working knowledge of French in order to be considered. The first fellowship was awarded to Beth Gurney, who is already using it to finance her studies at Paris' La Varenne, which Child described as "the best place for anyone to go at this point." And, while a committee will choose the candidates for the fellowship, Child herself will interview the finalists. She remains, after all, a do-it-yourself person, whether preparing a pie crust or awarding a fellowship.