Many of us grew up watching Julia Child, a master of French cooking, who showed t.v. viewers how to conquer this sometimes complicated cuisine. With her cheery enthusiasm, her lack of pretension, and her belief that amateur cooks could learn how to make these rather sophisticated dishes, she endeared herself to millions of faithful viewers.

Julia’s classic show, “The French Chef,” ran for 10 years on PBS, from 1963 to 1973. It also ran for years in reruns, and Child appeared on a number of cooking shows afterwards.

Child was notable for her unabashed love of butter and cream, the glass of wine she enjoyed while cooking, and because the show was filmed live, she occasional had mishaps she took in stride.

It came as somewhat as a surprise when we learned that Julia Child had not come to these skills because of years spent a housewife. Julia, in fact, had worked for years for the Office of Strategic Services, the agency that was the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency. She worked in Asia during World War II, where she handled classified information as the U.S. plotted guerrilla warfare against the Japanese. One of her tasks including devising code names. She also is credited with devising a shark repellent that was sprinkled into waters where bombs had been placed to take out German U-boats; sharks had been setting off the bombs.

Julia met her future husband while in China; he was a food connoisseur. When the couple moved to France in 1948, Julia enjoyed a meal of oysters and sole meunière that she says changed her life. She began to study French cooking, and by the time they moved back to the U.S., she was ready for the cameras. 

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