Wisdom From the Kitchen of Julia Child


For many of us, one of our first memories of cooking is listening to the jovial voice of a very tall woman on PBS, chuckling as she methodically deboned a chicken or loaded a dish with butter.

Julia Child was — and still is — an icon in the cooking world. She was born in California in 1912, and in 1949 moved with her husband to Paris, where she enrolled in the French cooking school Cordon Bleu as the only woman in her class. In 1961, after co-writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she returned to the United States, and two years later, officially introduced the country to the art of French cuisine with the debut of her television show The French Chef.

Her shows were drenched in joy and butter. Viewers loved her cheerful wobbly voice, her zeal to brandish a large knife, her ability to make fancy cooking accessible, and her bowlful of quips and life lessons in each episode.

Child didn’t just have sage wisdom about food, though. She looked at life through the lens of cooking, and many of her insightful comments can apply both in and out of the kitchen. Whether it’s using a dropped piece of meat as a metaphor for moving forward after making a mistake, or reflecting on how flipping something in a pan is a way to break free from fear, the multiple layers of meaning make her words all the more delicious. The 10 quotes below are some of the tastiest. In the words of Child herself, bon appetit!

ON LETTING GO

Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?

ON EXCELLENCE

A cookbook is only as good as its poorest recipe.

ON TAKING RISKS

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.

ON GOING FOR IT

The only way you learn how to flip things is just to flip them.

ON DILIGENCE

The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least 28 times before I finally conquered it.

ON CONFIDENCE

Just speak very loudly and quickly, and state your position with utter conviction, as the French do, and you’ll have a marvelous time!

ON DISCIPLINE

You must have discipline to have fun.

ON LIVING TO THE FULLEST

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.

ON INDECISION

People are uncertain because they don’t have the self-confidence to make decisions.

ON CREATIVITY

The more you know, the more you can create. There’s no end to imagination in the kitchen.