Old school Julia? Don’t you believe it



There’s a lot of talk about the ingredients of a long and productive life. In fact, you’d think we were writing the rules for current generations to follow for health and happiness.

This is arrogant rubbish

And nowhere is it displayed more clearly, or with such humour, as it is in the new documentary Julia.

Americans will immediately know whose life is being celebrated.

For anyone outside the US, it might be necessary to explain that the subject is celebrity chef, TV host, author and advocate, Julia Child.

I saw the documentary last week. I went because I am a huge fan of Child’s cooking and writing (as witness my 40-year-old copies of Mastering the Art of French Cookery, Vols 1 & 2). But while I went to the cinema to learn more about Child’s talent, I walked out in awe of her sheer life force.

Her success was not just due to great timing or cooking knowledge, although this certainly helped. It came from guts, determination, attention to detail and practice, practice, practice.

And when things went pear-shaped, as they sometimes do, she quickly pivoted (before pivoting was a thing) and took on the next challenge or embraced a new direction.

Nowhere is this more evident when she became a little too ‘old’ to front her spot with The French Chef after more than a decade at WGBH.

Did she take the hit? Fade away, slightly embarrassed and just a little resentful.

Hell, no.

She went straight to another network and started a new slot on morning breakfast.

Where she presided for many more years.

There are so many ways Julia Child’s life story gives us a template for staying youthful and relevant. Her habits and traits are there to be admired and copied. Above all else this energetic woman:

  • laughed a lot
  • loved easily
  • took risks
  • made mistakes, laughed, and started over
  • ate real food – the butter, the butter!
  • connected well with all generations
  • remained intensely curious
  • took on difficulty or unpopular causes
  • kept trying new things
  • never stopped working

Despite her fame, life wasn’t always easy. She experienced breast cancer and suffered grief following her mastectomy. She lost her beloved ‘other half’ Paul after decades of marriage. And she was reviled by anti abortionists for her stance on the need for family planning.

Unfazed she carried on, with a laugh, until she left us on August 13, 2004, two days short of her 92nd birthday.

‘Bon Appetit’ was her catch cry.

Few people have displayed such a ‘Bon Appetit’ for life.

Long may we learn from her example.