Thursday, August 14, 2008

One More Thing To Admire About Julia Child

Julia had long ago disclosed that during World War II she worked for the OSS, the intelligence agency that later became the CIA. She always said she typed names on file cards and performed other clerical tasks.

But the CIA has now released 750,000 pages of classified documents from the time of the OSS, which President Franklin Roosevelt created (as) the country's first centralized intelligence operation. Within this huge cache of papers were the names of thousands of citizens who worked as spies for the United States during WWII, including The French Chef herself, when she was still Julia McWilliams.

I can just see Julia, perhaps with her curly head wrapped tightly in a scarf against the winter wind off the Seine, meeting a secret source over a steaming bowl of bouillabaisse in the far reaches of the 13th.

Or maybe she rendezvoused while sampling escargots in a glorious garlic butter, perfect for dipping the crustiest baguette into. Ah no, THAT would leave a trace - the garlic breath, perhaps a soupçon of parsley in the teeth. She would have been more discreet - a kir at La Coupole or, maybe with more time, a simple sole meunière served with a good dose of covert intelligence.

Here is a wonderful account of what we know already about her wartime activities. Parts of these tasks had been known for years.

In the coming days, hopefully, we’ll learn the whole story of what it is that the indomitable Julia Child did for her country back then, but for right now, I feel good knowing, even more than before, that Julia - Teacher, Cook and Host Extraordinaire - can also be known as Patriot.


Tom Aarons said...

Hah! How much fun is this! A chef and a spy! Wow.

Adam said...

That really is something else. Her skills seem to know no bounds. She did so much for food and working women and general, and NOW a spy? Amazing.

Heather said...

The first rule of The Agency? No one talks about The Agency.

I find her admirable and refreshing in a world in which many people stand on the mountaintops and declare how important they are and tell of all they've accomplished (even sometimes embellish). Here is a woman who was told to keep her secrets and did just that.

Emiline said...

Ha ha! HILARIOUS. I mean, what you wrote. I was picturing her hair covered in a scarf also. Maybe she would be wearing big sunglasses? Ducking through alleys...

Sue said...

Hi Tom,
I know! It's great. I'm sure glad she didn't keep any secrets in Mastering. I guess that's why it had to be 2 volumes.

Hey Adam,
You are right on the money. She was awesome.

Yes, Heather,
THAT is true. And I'm sure she was asked repeatedly about her OSS service and she never cracked. I just love her to pieces.

Thank you Em.
Yes, she definitely had sunglasses (in my fantasy). I can so see her slinking around (as much as a six foot plus woman can slink) to get the dirt or deliver a secret message in the center of a pâté or maybe under the crust of a Wellington. Dear Julia.