81 rue de l’Université Paris 75007
Ernest Hemingway once said, “Paris is so very beautiful that it satisfies something in you that is always hungry in America” and no one can attest to that in a more literal sense than Culinary TV personality Julia Child.
Before Rachel Ray and Martha Steward, there was the OG American Celebrity Chef whose high pitched, resonating voice filled the kitchens of America in the 60’s and 70’s. Not only was she responsible for introducing French cuisine to American housewives who lacked the culinary expertise and confidence to cook à la française, she wrote the first English cookbook that made French recipes accessible to American kitchens.
No one had ever attempted to translate French classics like Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq au Vin until Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961. Her TV show, The French Chef, came about soon after and America loved the goofy and always cheery Julia who would make her raw chickens dance and laugh about her frequent kitchen blunders which were broadcasted live on TV. Her approachable personality made chic French cuisine less intimidating in a time when meat and potatoes dominated the dinner table.
I’m no chef and I avoid spending any longer in my tiny Parisian kitchen than I have to, but after reading her book, My Life in France; I was inspired to learn more about Julia and the life she lived in post WWII Paris with her husband Paul, whose job at the US Embassy brought them to Rue de l’Université.
At 34, Julia had never been interested in cuisine, but after a meal of Chablis, Oysters, and Sole Meunière her first evening in France, she was blown away by what she would always refer to as a life changing experience. She enrolled in the famous Le Cordon Bleu culinary school as the only woman amongst American GIs and the rest is history. Interestingly enough, Le Cordon Bleu would turn out to be a bit of a disappointment for Julia, but I’ll let you read about her experience there and decide for yourself.
While reading her book, I came across a beautiful picture of Julia leaning out of her window at Rue de Loo, and I was determined to see if this same building was still around. I found the address online and came across numerous photos of other (less motivated if I may dare say..) bloggers and aspiring chefs who also wanted to walk amongst the steps of Julia. But I was curious to see that the picture I had seen, was clearly not the same building where Julia had taken the photo, although it was labeled with correct address. I determined that it must have been taken from the interior courtyard and so I went to investigate.
Because you can’t enter apartment buildings without the code, (or in general, but I follow the ideology that nothing is forbidden until I am told otherwise) I had to wait about 10 minutes for someone to come out. As soon as the door opened and someone walked out, (I wondered if they even knew of Julia and that she lived there. She was never very popular in France; although she did receive the French Legion of Honor for her culinary contributions) I slipped inside and went to the courtyard. Et voila!
I found the window to Julia’s Paris apartment, where she lived for about 4 years, located in that vast, dull area of the 7th arrondissement between the Eiffel Tower and Saint Germain des Pres. I don’t know if anyone else experiences this same bizarre phenomenon as me, but sometimes I’ll read something that touches me on such a deep personal level that I feel like I genuinely know the writer or character. Along with Laura Ingalls Wilder,
Despite my disinterest in cuisine, Julia Child just really connected to me through the pages of her book. I don’t know if it’s because we are both tall and loud, or that we embraced our quirkiness in Paris rather than try to blend in like everyone else, but there was something magic about her that goes beyond her culinary skills.
I’ll end my Julia Child report here, but I highly suggest you read her book My Life in France to learn more about this fascinating woman. Bon Appétit!