Julia Child wasn't a fan of Julie Powell's Internet homage to her classic French cookbook. • Though she likely never saw the Julie/Julia Project online, Child said she felt the young writer's blog was gimmicky. • "She hated it," says Sara Moulton, who as a new graduate of the Culinary Institute of America was hired in 1979 to work behind the scenes on Child's PBS show, Julia Child & More Company. Child remained Moulton's friend and mentor until her death in August 2004 at age 91. Moulton's last conversations with Child, taped just months before her death, became part of a Food Network tribute.
Moulton, one of the first generation of chefs on the network, has been the executive chef at Gourmet magazine for 27 years. She talked to us last week from her office at the magazine, before she had a chance to see Julie & Julia, which opens Friday. She was a bit nervous that Child would come off as a cartoon, a la Dan Aykroyd's classic Saturday Night Live portrayal. Moulton knew the person beyond the TV persona and was glad to hear that Child's great love affair with longtime husband Paul is an integral part of the movie. (Read Steve Persall's review Thursday in Weekend.)
Powell never met Child and was crushed when she learned that the blog about cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking wasn't well received by her idol. But Powell was not the only person whose well-intentioned tributes were snubbed by Child.
"She did not want people making money off her name," Moulton says. "She was very pure about that. She just didn't believe in that kind of commercialism." Moulton suspects Child would be horrified by the Food Network and the chefs there and elsewhere with lines of cookware and food.
Child never wrote an endorsement for someone else's cookbook and even fought a group of Santa Barbara, Calif., rosarians that wanted to name a rose after her, Moulton says.
They succeeded though, and the Julia Child Rose blooms in a lovely butter-gold.
"The thing about Julia that was really great was that she knew who she was and she knew what she wanted," Moulton says.
Moulton, who employs Child's trilling voice when recounting something her mentor said, recalls that Child once told her "Dearie, when you're not on TV, they forget about you."
"I would tell her, 'They will never forget you,' " she says. "But she was right in a way."
Despite Child's disdain for the blog, Moulton is glad Powell embarked on her project, and that it eventually became a book and movie. (To read the original blog, go to blogs.salon.com/0001399/2002/08/25.html).
"What she has really done is keep Julia alive," Moulton says. "There is going to be a whole renaissance about her. It's all going to make her legacy even greater."
A new generation will discover Child through the movie, she says. And perhaps try a few recipes from her books.
On Monday, Mastering the Art of French Cooking was No. 35 of all books on Amazon.com. Not bad for a book first published in 1961.