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Women Who Inspire: Julia Child

Shabby Apple is a woman-owned, woman-run company aiming to empower women as well as dress them. With that mission in mind, this weekly series highlights the many women who inspire us.

Meet Julia Child, the larger-than-life cookbook author and TV chef has been credited with inspiring generations of Americans to learn to cook.

Five Things To Know:

1. She was unapologetic.

Child encouraged cooks to be confident in the kitchen. She told us not to apologize to our guests when we slip up. “Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed,” she said. “Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes.”

2. She didn’t fit the mold.

Child was unique in many ways—her 6-foot-3 frame gave her presence, for starters. And when she began cooking, professional chefs were all men: every one of her classmates at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris was male. In home kitchens, convenience was king—her complex and precise recipes bucked the trend.

3. She developed shark repellant.

We know Child for her elegant French cuisine, but she didn’t really learn to cook until she moved to Paris and enrolled in culinary school at 37. Her interest in food followed jobs as an advertising copywriter in New York and as a researcher for the government’s Secret Intelligence Division, where she helped develop shark repellant—designed to keep the animals from setting off underwater explosives meant for German U-boats.

4. She wasn’t an overnight success.

After Child and her co-authors worked (researching, developing and retesting recipes) for seven years on “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” the 850-page book was rejected by the publisher—then rejected again after a major revision. Another publisher later took the book on, finally releasing it in 1961.

5. She had a great love.

Child met her husband Paul in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where both were working for the United States’ Office of Strategic Services during World War II. He was a gourmand who introduced her to fine food, then supported her new passion—editing, photographing and testing her recipes for years. They were a team throughout her career.


Photo by Getty Images via Vanity Fair.

Photo via “My Life in France” via The New York Times.

Photo by Rick Friedman / Corbis via Smithsonian Magazine.

Photo by the Associated Press via the LA Times.

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Alicia Barney