Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day, Julia Child and Writers

    After the United States Congress unanimously voted to approve legislation that made Labor Day a national holiday, and President Grover Cleveland  signed it into law in  1894, its purpose  was to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers.  Today,  Labor Day is mostly associated with the end
of summer and retail sales.

    Typically, Labor Day weekend marks the last  three day, care free weekend before the start of school when families go on picnics, to the beach, barbecue in the back yard, and kids play hard. In the late 1970's when I worked for the Los Angeles Times selling retail advertising, I remember  there was always a big push to sell a Display ad to the department store, grocery market or mom and pop business to promote their special Labor Day Sale. 

    As I was preparing to write my blog for today, knowing it coincided with Labor Day, I gave thought to how writers often look upon their work as a Labor of Love - the hard work, perseverance, and dedication it takes to  write, and sometimes rewrite  a story, poem, memoir, composition, compilation of recipes ,  or essay; the writer is  vulnerable to the ridicule and criticism of others, all while putting  forth effort day after day to hone a craft  that will not only please her or himself, but also be pleasing to others in the way of description, plot, dialogue. Sometimes the writers goal is to educate, to help  broaden another's point of  view; Sometimes the writers purpose  is to make us  laugh, or move one  to tears, or share their own personal story. 

    When most folks think of Julia Child they think of the master of French cooking, a PBS superstar who taught cooking lessons to millions via television,  not Julia Child, the accomplished author. Yet, that is exactly  what she was, a storyteller who had a passion for French cooking,  the author  of  one  of the best selling cook books of all time, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, along with  other popular  titles including, Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume Two, From Julia Child's Kitchen, Julia's Kitchen Wisdom, Cooking with Master Chefs and her memoir, My Life in France. 


   By all accounts, Julia Child, born Julia  Carolyn McWilliams  in the  idyllic turn of the century  town of Pasadena, California,   August 15, 1912  was a child with  high energy and determination. Traits that would serve her well throughout her life, especially while writing her first book. It took Child  nine years of researching, writing, recipe testing and editing before  Mastering the Art of French Cooking  was finally published in 1961 ,  and not by Houghton Mifflin ,  who sent her a letter rejecting her book  because it was too long, but  by publisher Alfred A. Knopf.  

    And Knopf published only after much back and forth. According to biographer Bob Spritz, author of  Dearie The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, " Getting Knopf to publish it, however, would take considerable effort."

    Today, we can only surmise how lucky Knopf must have felt after their wise decision to publish Child's book led to a best seller.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume One, and Mastering Volume Two  - taken together, are considered one of the most influential works in American cookbook history. 

    This Labor Day I salute Julia Child,  and all writers who work so tirelessly to pursue  their goal of writing their passion  - a  novel, memoir,  or book of poems - and yes, even a cookbook !

*** For more information about Julia Child visit









Anonymous said...

I so enjoyed reading this and learning about Julia Child. The courage it took to do what she did is inspirational. Thank You so much for writing this story! And for posting the site to read up more on her life.


Jennifer Rova said...

Persistence seems to be a theme for some writers like Child and Rowlings. Thanks for the good post pointing this out with such a worthwhile example. It gives us all hope.

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

The more I learn about Julia Child, the more I like her.

Patty said...

I'd like to think we all have a little Julia inside of us....great blog Kath!

Elizabeth S. Brinton said...

I share three traits with Julia: an abiding love of butter, an obsession with French cuisine, and an enduring desire to 'woodpecker' away at writing. To learn that she and her husband both lived to a ripe old age was a vindication to me. Margarine is bad for you, and butter is good. She taught Americans a thing or two about cooking. I must dig out her cookbook and make something yummy.