1. She answered to other names.
Born Julia Carolyn Williams, and eventually becoming Julia Child by marriage, she didn’t just answer to the name Julia. She had several nicknames as a child, including Juju, Juke, and Jukies.
2. She liked to shoot hoops.
Julia’s interests and talents weren’t restricted to the kitchen; she showed a bit of athleticism in her youth. She knew how to bring it on the basketball court! During her tenure on the basketball team at Smith College, Julia had a huge advantage: her height. Standing in at 6 ft 2 in, she towered over the opposing players. Smith College even changed the rules of the game due to this unfair advantage, and ‘jump ball’ was no longer allowed. Other players didn’t stand a chance when facing off against Julia!
3. Her feet weren’t petite.
Julia’s feet were in proportion to her height and she wore a size 12 shoe. No dainty glass slippers here.
4. She wasn’t a chef right out of the gate.
It’s hard to imagine Julia Child holding any position other than a cook and TV personality. Her first job out of college, however, was at a home furnishings company where she was employed in the advertising department. Julia was eventually let go from her job at the age of 28 for making a tactical error.
5. She serviced our country during WWII.
Following her stint as an advertising manager, Julia Child wanted to join in on the WWII efforts. Unfortunately, she was excluded from joining the Women’s Army Corps due to her height. Instead, Julia joined the Office of Strategic Services and was quickly promoted to the position of a top secret researcher. There she used her expertise to develop a shark repellent. Her invention was still in use by the Navy up until the 1970s!
6. She first noticed Chinese food.
Julia Child wasn’t always interested in culinary pursuits. As a child, most of Julia’s meals were prepared using frozen or canned foods. While working in China during WWII, Julia realized that food could be wonderful and really enjoyed eating the local Chinese cuisine. This is when Julia’s love for food first began to bloom.
7. She married late.
Women in the 1940s married fairly young, averaging in their very early twenties. Julia didn’t tie the knot with her husband until she was 34. Julia first met Paul Child met during her time working at the Office of Strategic Services in Ceylon. They were married in 1946 in Pennsylvania.
8. Her husband helped ignite her passion for French cuisine.
It is reported that Julia’s husband had a very refined palate. A couple of years into their marriage, Paul took Julia to dine at Restaurant La Couronne, the oldest restaurant in Paris, and Julia was smitten. Julia later described this experience as “the most exciting meal of my life.” It ignited a lifetime love for French food and sparked the beginning of Julia’s cooking career. Bon Appétit!
9. She got her first regular TV gig thanks to viewer write-ins.
A 1962 appearance on a local book review show on WGBH in Boston moved 27 viewers to write the station requesting that they air more of Julia. This led to her own show, The French Chef, which began airing in 1963. Julia was a pioneer in introducing French cuisine to the American public, and her show was one of the first cooking shows in the states, period.
10. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
Julia set out to adapt French cuisine for Americans in her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but was initially met with rejection. The publisher wondered why any American would want to know that much about French cooking. After some persistence by an editor who believed in the project, the book was finally published and hit bookshelves in 1961.
11. She wasn’t afraid to use a little butter.
Julia was a strong supporter of the dairy industry, using a whopping 753 pounds of butter during the course of Baking with Julia. She believed that focusing too much on the nutritional content of food takes away the pleasure of eating.
12. That love of butter is forever memorialized.
Being such a well-loved icon, Julia Child actually had a rose named after her. The flower is a warm butter-yellow, paying tribute to her fondness of butter.
13. Her show didn’t go unnoticed.
Julia Child touched the lives of many over the course of her television appearances and she put a great deal of effort into her work. Each 30-minute episode of The French Chef required about 19 hours of preparation on Julia’s part. These efforts paid off. During the course of her career, Julia was nominated for eight Emmys and she won three of them. She was also the very first educational television personality in history to receive an Emmy.
14. She garnered the attention of a U.S. president.
Julia was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2003. This award recognizes exceptionally praiseworthy service and is the highest civilian honor in the United States.
15. She cooked until the end.
Julia passed away in August of 2004 at the age of 91 (just two days before her birthday!) and never gave up cooking. Keeping to her classic cooking interests, her last meal was a bowl of French onion soup.