FCiA prompts Mimi Sheraton to recall several memorable encounters with Julia Child, some more giggly than others
Mixing It Up with Julia Child
The author’s long and complex relationship with the culinary icon.
10.01.16 12:01 AM ET
The date was July 8, 1976, just a few months after I arrived at The New York Times and, as I recall, before I ever had met Julia. The event was a state dinner at The White House given by President and Mrs. Gerald Ford to mark our bicentennial with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip as the guests of honor. (Come to think of it, it was a sly reminder that “We won. You lost.”)
Julia was scheduled to observe and record the preparations and then to appear live on PBS narrating the event that very night as it took place. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times were invited to send a food reporter to cover Julia covering the preparations and I was chosen for the task. It was a wonderful day seeing the lovely tent decorations where the dinner would be held and being inside that hallowed kitchen as chef Henry Haller implemented the French-continental menu. As he worked he reported food preferences of past presidents he had worked for and as quoted by Prud’homme: “Nixon didn’t eat many things. He didn’t like lamb or calves’ liver or a lot of things and it was hard to make an interesting menu. The Fords liked almost everything—even liver and red cabbage cooked with wine, the French way.”
My partial comment in reporting the event and as included in Prud’homme’s book, was about the nature of the food selected. “Through it all, one could not help wondering if a really imaginative, thoroughly American dinner, might not have been more interesting and appropriate to the occasion than this menu which, though elegant and appetizing, was all-purpose international.”
Thinking I had pulled my punches, I was surprised (and, let’s face it, a bit delighted) to hear Julia on PBS that very night as she narrated the event, and, addressing my comment, saying something like, what should have been served? Fried chicken and hamburgers?