It was a friend’s birthday party, it was a crab feast, and it was under a tent in the same location where Julia Child had her first crabs (and I was there). This stirred a conversation about all the current hoopla about Julia being OSS in World War II. If you have read anything about Julia Child, the fact that she was with the OSS was not a secret: although, it is news to the general populous as certain documents from the war have become unclassified.
My friend, Margaret Sullivan, the production manager/producer of two of Julia Child’s Emmy award-winning television series, Baking with Julia and In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, started to share stories that Julia told during down time between filming scenes. Margaret explains that Julia didn’t want to make a big deal about her time in the OSS: she didn’t want to be called a hero. Julia said “I didn’t carry a gun and I didn’t put my life on the line.” Sullivan paraphrases Julia, “she had a wonderful time, a gal from Santa Barbara going and living in Ceylon where she eventually met her husband, Paul Child.
Julia was an office organizer by day and she like others, were encouraged to go to receptions and cocktail parties in the evenings to see what they might learn by keeping their eyes and ears open. At the end of the evening’s festivities, all who attended would report back to the OSS stenographers who took notes on what the attendees remembered. Julia told Margaret, "it was amazing what facts got leaked at the parties." Being with the OSS was as much social as it was work for Julia.
When they were filming one of Julia’s shows she was asked when she started cooking. Sullivan remembers her saying, “I could boil water for tea but my first big recipe was shark repellent that I mixed in a bathtub for the Navy, for the men who might get caught in the water.”
Another Julia Tidbit
When Julia and her husband moved to Paris, Julia enrolled in the Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School. The classes she initially signed up for were for the wives, a diversion of sorts. She soon found these classes lacking substance and joined the much harder program for the men returning from war looking for culinary careers.
About Margaret Sullivan: She is affiliated with Maryland Public Broadcasting and has been the production manager/producer on Pierre Franey, Jacques Torres, Steven Raichlen, Joan Nathan and of course, two of Julia Child's cooking series.
As for the photograph, this picture was taken in 1999, I remember distinctly Julia telling her assistant, Stephanie, that if they had time before they left Baltimore, she wanted to go see Eyes Wide Shut with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. I’m in the photo behind the pole – one of my better profiles.