5 Lessons Learned From Julia Child

Image from Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Harvard University

With curiosity, pure fun, and many wise words along the way, Julia Child helped countless home chefs embrace cooking with fewer rules and more confidence. In honor of her birthday on August 15th, we’re reflecting on her brilliant journey, and even more importantly on the joy, ease, and comfortable approach she brought to cooking.

1. “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients.”

Yes! Thank you, Julia, for this important reminder and for endorsing a simple approach to meal preparation that’s all about fresh foods and uncomplicated meals. At Guiding Stars, recipes are designed with just enough ingredients and simple steps to show home chefs that an effortless meal can be made right in their own kitchen. When herbs and citrus are on the ingredient list and paired with whole grains, lean protein, and fresh produce, you’ll create bright and flavorful dishes with ease.

2. “Well, all I know is this—nothing you ever learn is really wasted and will sometime be used.”

An important reminder that we’re all students when it comes to food and cooking. Julia’s goal was for us to gather skills and learn about food along the way, sometimes by simply observing cooking methods and techniques. As a dietitian, I’m focused on helping folks learn more about food, nutrition, and of course how to prepare nourishing meals. I’m a big believer in the benefit of gathering bits of information along the way to create a foundation of understanding and knowledge to call on when we need it.

3. “Fat gives things flavor.”

Here at Guiding Stars, we’re all about acknowledging the important role that fat plays in cooking. While we may not be adding butter (and more butter) to our recipes, we’re using fats to flavor foods. Fats play an important role in recipes and in our overall diet. Without them, our foods would not just lack flavor, but also texture and satiety. Don’t be afraid to add fats to your day and aim for Guiding Stars earning vegetable oils and butter spreads.

4. “Learn how to cook—try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun.”

Take risks, try something new, and most importantly don’t take it all so seriously. Maybe the first time you made a roux it didn’t go so well, possibly your popovers didn’t “pop”, or maybe your dish didn’t exactly come out looking like the recipe photo. Rest assured you still learned something. Even if it’s learning something you won’t do next time. My own experience as a home chef has led to several successes and many failures too. However, I’ve never regretted trying something new in the kitchen.

5. “The more you know, the more you can create. There’s no end to imagination in the kitchen.”

In this simple quote, Julia sums up the way we should all approach cooking. Her rule breaking style was boundless and fun and many of us envied her easy approach to complicated cooking techniques. While skill of course played a role in Julia’s cooking, it was her desire to learn, experiment, and color outside the lines that became the trademark of her work. We could also use a bit more creation and imagination in the kitchen. If you’re looking for a place to start, consider letting local seasonal selections guide you, embracing a more diverse menu, or simply trying a new cooking technique.