The Mistakes of Julia Child


“One of the secrets and pleasures of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.”

                                                          -Julia Child


Yesterday Julia Child turned 100. I owe her a lot. She taught millions how to cook, but I am thankful for one, Pam. By opening the pages of Julia’s many books, and by watching her on television, Pam learned how to cook. And because she had to try those dishes out on someone, I have been the luckiest man on earth.

But today I remember especially the grace of Julia. The reason millions of people felt so at home with Julia Child was her total lack of pretension, and her great-hearted acceptance of mistakes and failures. When things went wrong in the kitchen, Julia just pronounced it okay.

There is that humorous TV scene where a layer cake starts to fall apart, and Julia just scoops up a huge dollop of frosting and covers it all up. Parfait! She flips an omelette and the thing rolls into an eggy wreck. No problem. We just grab the egg-turner and smoosh it back together. Voila!

One of my favorite lines from the great chef is, “Always remember: if you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?” Compared to the perfect chefs of today, who serve up a “lifestyle” just out of ordinary reach, Julia Child was perfect in her imperfection. In a profound way she taught and lived a message of grace. That’s what I need every day. And since it’s what every human being needs, I want to tell people today that broken cakes and smashed omelettes and dropped lambs are just fine. Broken people are just fine. We really are.

P.S. Here’s a classic little 46-second video of Julia giving a brief homily, “Don’t be afraid of failure in the kitchen.”

8 Responses to The Mistakes of Julia Child
  1. Caroline Oakes
    August 16, 2012 | 8:46 am


    Your post reminds me of when I was learning how to ski. After skiing down a slope full of moguls, I proudly told my instructor that I hadn’t fallen once. He said, “You will never know how far your edges will take you unless you fall.”

    Thank you, David, thank you, Julia!

    • David Anderson
      August 16, 2012 | 12:34 pm

      That’s great–learning to fall. That’s pretty much the spiritual life in a word.

  2. Roz Emmons
    August 16, 2012 | 4:59 pm

    So pleased to hear that Pam was inspired by Julia…I certainly was and had every cook book she wrote. She gave us courage! She would be pleased to see how far it has taken Pam. When I arrived at the “Good Food store” where she was doing a book signing, she said to me as she signed a few of my books….Hope you’ve been having fun!…and that I have. Roz

  3. Ginny Lovas
    August 16, 2012 | 7:32 pm

    Julia Child – a wonderful human being! Ginny

  4. clark johnson
    August 17, 2012 | 10:58 am

    To fail is human to forgive is devine! Does that fit in here somehow? Blessings to all clark

    • David
      August 19, 2012 | 6:30 am

      Sure does.

  5. Martha Cook
    August 17, 2012 | 12:00 pm

    Julia was one of my favorites of all time. I had grown up with good, but plain food–even garlic powder was something of a walk on the wild side–and fresh garlic was unheard of! I remember happy hours in the kitchen during the first years of my marriage. Dinner might be two hours late and the kitchen might look like a tornado casualty, but I would be beaming with joy over my not always successful tilting run at one of Julia’s recipes. Thanks for the memory!

  6. marilyn topar
    August 17, 2012 | 2:38 pm

    Back when we were living outside Chicago, it was Julia on first, followed by Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet – 2 very different personalities with different messages – profound effects on me and my friends – cooking became an art instead of drudgery! In our case, since Daryl traveled most of the time,the kids first tested my efforts – just ask Courtney, Brian or Chris about “Mama’s Delicacies” !!

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