Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Espionage … The OSS … World War II … and JULIA !!

I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that the feisty Julia Childs was a spy for the US decades before her world wide fame as a chef.

She has always been a favorite of mine. Black and white TV was just coming in around the time that I was in College...in the early 50’s...and I would hurry home after my classes in order to not miss a minute of her TV cooking course.

My favorite show was the day that she made a Lemon Pie and piled on the meringue. She had beaten the egg whites until they were stiff as a board and she’d used a spoon to ease up little white spikes over the entire pie. It looked beautiful and I figured the next step would be to slip the pie in the oven under the broiler to brown the tips of the meringue.

But, oh, no...that was way too tame for Julia. She ignited an acetylene torch and proceeded to wave the flame over the top of the pie until it did, indeed, take on a lovely golden hue. I think it was a great surprise to the staff also because they could be seen in the background looking shocked and backing away from Julia. Of course you could tell that she gloried in their reaction. She loved the dramatic and the bizarre.

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the predecessor of the CIA and one of their problems at the beginning of World War II had to do with the German U-boats. Sharks would bump into explosives that were placed underwater, setting them off, and warning the U-boats instead of sinking them.

This was Julia’s first gastronomic feat of note. She and a few others literally “cooked up” a shark repellent that was used to coat the explosives and the problem was solved.

For years I’ve thanked Julia Childs for proving to me that cooking can be fun and exciting. Now I can thank her for her patriotic bent also.


Blogger KGMom said...

Ginnie--as usual, you do find the most intriguing topics to write about.
I agree--I was not surprised to learn of Julia's spy days. I had read a while ago about her being in the OSS; what we didn't know was what exactly she did there.
I can still hear her voice cracking in that inimitable way--as she said "you take the chicken. . ."

7:19 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

She was a character. And she was larger than life. I still like her brick oven baked sour dough French bread.

10:33 AM  
Blogger kenju said...

I was surprised when I heard it, but then as I thought more about it - I realized she was the perfect person for the job!

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never heard of her, but she sure looks like she could sink a U-boat.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Scott W said...

I can see her putting secret messages in crepes, secret code in ravioli!

2:11 PM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

i wonder if Julia ever spent any time at Camp X http://webhome.idirect.com/~lhodgson/campx.htm the spy school of the allies just outside Toronto. It was here that William Stephenson (The man called Intrepid) a Canadian arranged to train spies. The seeds for the CIA and MI5 were sown here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Stephenson

9:00 PM  
Blogger dmmgmfm said...

I had absolutely NO IDEA that Julia was a spy. You do have the most interesting posts.


9:19 PM  
Blogger Crayons said...

What a fun post. My mom and I watched Julia Child (Childs?) on PBS. Am I right in thinking that it aired on Thursday nights? We were not really interested in the recipes, rather in the performance and the voice.

You have uncovered a new facet to this wonderful, monumental piece of American history. Thanks.

7:18 AM  

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