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Today, August 15, 2022, marks what would have been Julia Child's 110th birthday! To celebrate her accomplishments and support our "What's Cookin', Laurel?" food history exhibit, we are pleased to share with you this story from a local Laurel resident who was a friend of Julia's. Enjoy - and Bon Appetit!
Julia and I had been friendship for many years. In fact, I was present and helping (as best I could) at every one of the cooking shows taped in her home in Cambridge.
After those series were completed, we stayed in touch in many ways. I was present also for many of the shows she later did jointly with Jacques Pepin.
Julia spent quite a lot of time in California, where she lived much of her childhood in Pasadena. She and Paul particularly liked Santa Barbara, long before it became so crowded.
Our phone calls had become a longstanding tradition almost every Sunday morning, no matter where we were.
She suggested that I join her for my 60th birthday. I thought that was a terrific idea!
The plan was that we would drive to Napa from Santa Barbara, where she would also would meet with Robert Mondavi. Then we would go to one of her favorite places in the Wine Country where we would have a nice celebration. It was a long drive, but Julia loved to "get out and go!" She commissioned a car and driver, and on November 2, 2000, we set out in the morning.
Of course, we had to stop at one of her beloved "In and Out Burgers" for lunch. We arrived in Napa and checked into our hotel. She went out for a business dinner with Mr. Mondavi, and I went out on my own.
She told me at breakfast that she and Robert Mondavi had agreed that a restaurant would be opened in Napa and it would be named "Julia's Kitchen." This would be the first (and only) time she had ever agreed to allow her name and reputation to be associated with a commercial venture. Although she would not be an owner, she would be in charge of dining standards and even menus opening months. She was so excited!
November 3, we just wandered around. She was using a walker by that stage and had had back surgery, which made her a bit uncomfortable, but totally undaunted! We had a great day, and dinner someplace new that evening. The
staff had never seen her before in person and it became a party of its own! Julia just loved it.
So, the next day, November 4, 2000, was my 60th. Somehow she had planned something rather special. Her nephew Alex showed up, and we all went to a Mexican restaurant (I forget which one). Well....they had decked it out for a party! A few other folks I had known through Julia over the years also were there. We just had a blast,
complete with a Mexican pinata!
I had never seen Julia drink so much beer! Dos Equis. She said she loved beer with this cuisine and she was right! I have drunk Dos Equis ever since. Julia gifted me something which was very personal and very moving.
November 5, we drove back to Santa Barbara. Julia had some business to attend to, but we got together for dinner that evening. More Mexican food! La Super Rica Taqueria.... Julia loved excellent Mexican cuisine almost as much as French.
The next day I flew home.
I did not know at the time that this would be the last time I would see her. We continued our phone calls but it was not the same as the in-person exuberance I had come to know and love. Julia would pass away four years later. Her calendar had remained full right up until the end.
Julia Child in her kitchen as photographed ©Lynn Gilbert, 1978, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Julia Child's Kitchen on display at the National Museum of American History. RadioFan at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons