Julia and Simca: A Franco-American Culinary Alliance

Presented by
David Strauss, PhD

Julia Child was born nearly 100 years ago, in August 1912. To help celebrate her centennial, Professor David Strauss, a Julia Child devotee, will shed some more interesting light on this already greatly documented American icon. Strauss will explain how one of the seminal events that launched our current gourmet dining craze was the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961. “In rightly celebrating Julia Child for her role in writing this cook book, we often forget that it was a cross-national, collaborative project featuring Julia and her French partner, Simca Beck,” Strauss says. “The story of their lively and sometimes stormy relationship tells us much about the personalities of these two women, while also revealing cultural differences between France and America which fueled their controversies.”

Strauss says that we should recognize the partnership’s role in enabling the two authors to produce a classic cookbook. “Without Julia’s insistence on educating American housewives in basic cooking skills and Simca’s knowledge of the recipes available to middle-class French households, the book would not have succeeded. Even so, we should not underestimate the good fortune of the authors to publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961, the year the Kennedys hired a French chef in the White House.”

BIO: David Strauss is professor emeritus of history at Kalamazoo College where he taught courses in American cultural history for 29 years. Recipient of two Fulbright grants, Strauss has also taught American Studies at the University of Lyon, France, and Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. In addition to Setting the Table for Julia Child: Gourmet Dining in America, 1934-1961 (2011), Strauss has published Percival Lowell: The Culture and Science of a Boston Brahmin (2001) and Menace in the West: The Rise of French Anti-Americanism in Modern Times (1978).

Presented by Culinary Historians of Chicago on:

Saturday, April 14, 2012
Kendall College, School of Culinary Arts
900 N. North Branch Street, Chicago