In honor of the new Meryl Streep movie about Julia Child, “Julie and Julia,” I dug up an old phone interview I did with the matronly PBS star in the 1990s.
Julia Child bluntly didn’t approve of my lifestyle at the time — I was frequently eating breakfast cereal for dinner straight from the box (required no cooking skills). But I was a huge fan of hers anyway. Here’s the brief story, written to tease a promotional appearance in Peterborough, New Hampshire:
By DARREN GARNICK
May 8, 1996
Superchef Julia Child has a Whopper of a secret.
“I like McDonald’s and Burger King,” she revealed in a recent phone interview from her Cambridge, Mass., home. “Driving up to Maine, that’s all there is.”
“It’s too bad that people are afraid of their food and afraid of fat,” she said, offering her preferred recipe for life: “Moderation, small helpings and a little bit of everything. Watch your weight and have a good time. Follow that and you’ll be all right.”
Child will be the guest of honor Saturday at “The Great Food Bazaar” in Peterborough, where she will sign cookbooks and join a panel discussion on gourmet cuisine. The event is scheduled from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the South Meadow School on Route 202 North.
In her 80s, Child still does all her own cooking. As her television personality suggests, she is not the type to skip dinner and pour herself a bowl of Froot Loops instead.
“Why would I want to do that?” she asked incredulously. “If that’s all there is, I’ll eat it. But I like to prepare good food.”
Child has been sharing her expertise and gastronomical humor with PBS viewers since 1963, with her debut series “The French Chef.” Following more than 200 episodes focusing on classical French cooking, she extended her frying pan to contemporary dishes on the programs “Julia Child and Company” and “Dinner at Julia’s.”
She has opened her personal kitchen to the world’s master chefs in her most recent series, adopting a commentator’s role as she nibbles on her guest’s creations.
“I’ve always wanted to do a show using home ingredients and home equipment,” Child explained. “People see a lot of the gourmet shows and think, `Oh, I could never do that.’ I want them to see it is perfectly possible in your home kitchen.”
“Baking at Julia’s,” which will focus on chocolate cakes, pies and other treats, is due to be released on PBS this fall.
Child’s high-pitched, almost opera-like voice is one of the most-imitated by professional comedians and amateur kitchen clowns. Her accent is not British — she was born in Pasadena, Calif. — but is a conglomeration of dialects she may have picked up while globetrotting early in her career.
Working in the advertising and publicity fields, Child joined the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA) during World War II and was sent to Southeast Asia and China. Her husband, Paul, was a diplomat with the U.S. Information Service, which later took the couple to France, Germany and Norway.
Regardless of where she may have picked up her accent, Child insists that she has yet to meet an accurate mimic. However, she has special praise for comedian Dan Akroyd, who did his impression of her on “Saturday Night Live.”
Child offers her own comedy routines. Avid viewers know when Chef Julia’s recipe calls for a dab or smidgen of wine, she’ll always spill some extra. “I’m a ham,” she confessed. ”I do things to have fun.”
I think I may be the only journalist to ever ask her the Froot Loops question. Her tone indicated that she may have thought I was a nutcake.