Academic journal article American Studies

Julia Child's the French Chef

Academic journal article American Studies

Julia Child's the French Chef

Article excerpt

JULIA CHILD'S THE FRENCH CHEF. By Dana Polan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2011.

From "Thirty Minute Meals" to "Iron Chef," Americans are obsessed with watching cooking. Where did this fascination come from? As film scholar Dana Polan argues in Julia Child's The French Chef, Julia Child and her TV show were key to the popularization of food as a televisual subject. But Child, Le Cordon Bleu graduate and co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961), did not invent the television cooking show. Alongside her husband and producers at WGBH, the Boston public television station, Child contributed important elements to a form that had been in place since TV's earliest days. In one of the best chapters, Polan traces the cooking show before The French Chef (1963), explaining how early shows created the genre's conventions, like close-ups on the host's hands interspersed with longer shots. Child borrowed these, but added a pedagogical depth married to a deep joy in cooking that was evident in each episode, which included recipe instruction with a "conceptual" narrative "that situated each step in its contexts and saturated it with broader understanding" (127). That her show coincided with the rise of a new petite bourgeoisie that used food to demonstrate distinction and taste ensured her success.

Equally important was Child herself. Her larger-than-life persona combined with her deep knowledge of French food and the visible pleasure she derived from cook ing, eating, and drinking, made her addictive to watch. As fan letters acknowledge, viewers of widely divergent backgrounds liked her spontaneity and strangeness. While she was no cultural rebel (Polan repeatedly mentions that she used industrially produced foods even if she preferred homemade), Child even appealed to people in the counterculture and avant garde who saw her as candid rather than canned. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.