Julia wanted her viewers to loosen up, get physical, not with controlled substances but with food, not through a glass darkly but at table, with delight. Hers was a civilized sensuality, the integration of the senses that she’d learned in France. This is why her following was legion—Julia’s appetite appealed to young and old alike.
“Americans didn’t come over on the Mayflower trusting food,” says Laura Shapiro. “Julia’s whole thing about food was that you had to trust it. That, to me, is her great message. Getting your hands into it—touch it, breathe it, smell it, live it. If we as Americans have overcome to any degree our fear of food, our weird neurotic thing about the body, it starts with Julia.”
“I felt very related to her,” says Judith Jones, “because we were both released from very traditional, middle-class American values. And it was France that released us. She wanted to bring this message to America—that we were still steeped in the Puritan attitude towards food, and what the food industry had done to make us feel that food was not for the modern woman. It’s what an artist does: you want to express it so that you awaken sensibility. And she really did that.”
“Her favorite point in her life was the years in France, that period of discovery and awakening,” says Alex Prud’homme. “As she said, ‘I felt myself opening like a flower.’ It was a lovely phrase. And I think one of the reasons that—this is my personal theory—she wanted to write all these recipes down and transmit them to Americans is it was a form of distilling experience, almost like a short story or a poem. She used the recipe as a way of talking about France and its values, which are so different from ours. You know, doing things correctly and taking the time to get it right, and to work hard and learn your technique, and also to have fun.”