Our Lady of the Kitchen


by Betty Fussell

Everyone seemed to be riding the Julia wave as the media blitz for Julie & Julia swept the country this summer. I got a free ride because of my 1999 memoir, My Kitchen Wars (just out in a new paperback edition), which detailed what Julia meant to my generation of housewives in the 1960s. I was happy to be quoted, along with Nora Ephron, in the August issue of Vanity Fair by Laura Jacobs, who profiled Julia in “Our Lady of the Kitchen.”

Recalling Julia in the 60s, Nora Ephron told Jacobs, “It was an almost hilarious epidemic of cooking from that cookbook. … People would just pitch themselves into these things, and it was very much part of the fabric of all our lives in the early 60s.”

I’m cited as one of those “pitchers”: “We’d called Julia Child by her Christian name the moment Mastering the Art of French Cooking appeared in 1961, because she seemed to be talking directly to us. …. To cook French, eat French, drink French ¬†was to become versant in the civilized tongues of Europe as opposed to America’s barbaric yawp.”

I got another happy freebie mention in a new novel that appeared in April, Jean Hanff Korelitz’s Admission, set in Princeton in the 1990s, three decades after Julia had taken over the lives of women like me. Korelitz’s heroine has read up on women who’d written back stories of the academic scene, and I was happy to be linked to such notables as Rebecca Goldstein (The Mind-Body Problem) and Eileen Simpson (Poets in Their Youth).

But I was even happier to be linked to Julia, even though her revolutionary shakeup of American food was perhaps all too transient in Princeton.

Korelitz writes of her heroine: “The wonderful Princeton purveyors she had read about in Betty Fussell’s gastronomic memoir, My Kitchen Wars — like the butcher who gamely ground pork and veal for clever, frustrated housewives in thrall to Julia Child — seemed to have perished, and all good restaurants, if any had existed, had evidently fled along with them.” (p.83)

Julia was a blessed person and she continues to shed her generosity of heart and mind on all of us she left behind.

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Posted on Sep 11, 2009