A Secret Recipe

A Secret Recipe

Julia Child

Everyone in this article refuses to be typecasted.

Despite being born to the working class in the Australian outback in an age where women were kept nearer to the kitchens than to any important positions, Colleen McCullough went from carrying bedpans to teacher and researcher at the neurology department at Yale.

Then she turned right around and did what she wanted to do all along : write. She wrote, amongst other critically acclaimed books, The Thorn Birds and the Masters of Rome series of historical novels (which this writer enjoyed immensely). She achieved international recognition as a writer and was awarded a Doctor of Letters degree.

This brings us to Julia Child, and another interesting and atypical carreer. Before she taught everyone how to whip up a nice béarnaise sauce, this tall, imposing woman with the deep warbling, quavering voice was a spook. She also went on to publish many books and host a cooking show that made her internationally renowned.

She came from a very different background than McCullough and followed an almost reverse but no less illustrious trajectory.

Her mother was an heiress, daughter of a lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and her father was a Princeton man. She earned a degree in History and when WWII came around, she decided that what she really wanted to do was whup some Nazi tuches. Now, at 6 foot 2 inches, she was a really big and conspicuous woman. The auxiliary women's military services rejected her because of her size, so she enrolled in the OSS… where conspicuousness is not really a problem, is it, being a secret organisation and all? Well, apparently not. Again, a story of dizzying ascent.

She started out as a typist in the OSS, but quickly became a top secret researcher answering directly to the legendary Wild Bill Donovan. She was posted in the pacific theater and then China. She held sensitive positions throughout the war.

After the war she married a spook she had met in the OSS.

But wait! What kind of a spook was he?

Again going against type, he was an artist and a poet, an American expat who lived in Paris, and the person responsible for turning her on to French cuisine.

The rest is history... but is it really history? Well, her home kitchen in Massachusetts was taken apart and transported to Washington, where it is now an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute.


H. Keith Melton (2009), Ultimate Spy, Inside the Secret World of Espionage, DK, ISBN 978-0-7566-5576-1

Mary Jean DeMarr, Colleen McCullough: a critical companion, Greenwood Press, 1996, ISBN 1-313-294-99-2



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