Julia Child's The French Chef

Julia Child's The French Chef

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by Dana Polan, Dana B Polan
     
 

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Julia Child’s TV show, The French Chef, was extraordinarily popular during its broadcast from 1963 until 1973. Child became a cultural icon in the 1960s, and, in the years since, she and her show have remained enduring influences on American cooking, American television, and American culture. In this concise book, Dana Polan considers what made

Overview

Julia Child’s TV show, The French Chef, was extraordinarily popular during its broadcast from 1963 until 1973. Child became a cultural icon in the 1960s, and, in the years since, she and her show have remained enduring influences on American cooking, American television, and American culture. In this concise book, Dana Polan considers what made Child’s program such a success. It was not the first televised cooking show, but it did define and popularize the genre. Polan examines the development of the show, its day-to-day production, and its critical and fan reception. He argues that The French Chef changed the conventions of television’s culinary culture by rendering personality indispensable. Child was energetic and enthusiastic, and her cooking lessons were never just about food preparation, although she was an effective and unpretentious instructor. They were also about social mobility, the discovery of foreign culture, and a personal enjoyment and fulfillment that promised to transcend domestic drudgery. Polan situates Julia Child and The French Chef in their historical and cultural moment, while never losing sight of Child’s unique personality and captivating on-air presence.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[A] history of early American television telescoped through the persona and history of Julia Child. . . . [F]ascinating. . . . Mr. Polan’s meticulous work in Julia Child’s The French Chef contributes much to the growing literature on American food history.” - Cynthia D. Bertelsen, New York Journal of Books

“[Polan’s] writing is consistently engaging, whether he's discussing chicken carcasses being made to dance along the counter or the technical implications of a dropped soufflé. He also brings a steady influx of humor and interesting tangents to his account. . . . Thoroughly researched and wonderfully illuminating, Polan's book will earn admiration in both readers interested in television and those interested in Julia Child.” - Andi Diehn, ForeWord

Julia Child’s The French Chef is a fabulous book filled with delicious nuggets about the television series that changed what Americans ate—and what Americans watched on television. The book is both entertaining and informative, and it is timely, for it has been nearly fifty years since the series first aired. Dana Polan is as bright, insightful, and companionable as was the television series. Bravo!”—Andrew F. Smith, Editor, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America

“In Julia Child’s The French Chef, Dana Polan offers a fascinating new perspective on Child and her on-air persona. He demonstrates the crucial interplay among the celebrity (Julia), handler (her husband, Paul), and producer (the public television station WGBH), and the way they all came together into such a magical whole. This investigation is an important contribution to our understanding of Child’s seminal role in shaping American attitudes toward food.”—Darra Goldstein, Editor in Chief, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture

“With a refreshing intellectual passion, Dana Polan offers a compelling glimpse into the industrial and cultural ethos of Julia Child and her television show, The French Chef. Polan carefully delineates a model for how to study the media through an individual program, and in so doing, provides a definitive reason for the need to study popular culture in a theoretically and methodologically rigorous way. Essential for those in food and food-related studies, this insightful and engaging book will also be a must-read for media studies scholars.”—Sarah Banet-Weiser, author of Kids Rule!: Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship

Cynthia D. Bertelsen
“[A] history of early American television telescoped through the persona and history of Julia Child. . . . [F]ascinating. . . . Mr. Polan’s meticulous work in Julia Child’s The French Chef contributes much to the growing literature on American food history.”
Andi Diehn
“[Polan’s] writing is consistently engaging, whether he's discussing chicken carcasses being made to dance along the counter or the technical implications of a dropped soufflé. He also brings a steady influx of humor and interesting tangents to his account. . . . Thoroughly researched and wonderfully illuminating, Polan's book will earn admiration in both readers interested in television and those interested in Julia Child.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780822393474
Publisher:
Duke University Press
Publication date:
07/22/2011
Series:
Spin offs
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
312
File size:
1 MB

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Dana Polan is Professor of Cinema Studies at New York University. He is the author of The Sopranos, also published by Duke University Press, and Scenes of Instruction: The Beginnings of the U.S. Study of Film.

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Julia Child's the French Chef 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
takingadayoff More than 1 year ago
In Julia Child's The French Chef, Professor Dana Polan begins in traditional scholarly style (this is a university press publication, after all) by launching a long introduction that outlines the book. Once he's completed that requirement, the rest of the book is a two-course treat. First, Polan takes a look at the the social influences of the time leading up to The French Chef. What were the movies, the trends, the pastimes that made people receptive to the idea of learning to cook French food at home? The second part examines the influence that The French Chef had on America. Much of the first part is a social history of the early days of television in America, with an emphasis on locally produced cooking shows. You might have thought that The French Chef was one of the first cooking shows on TV, but Polan describes a history that predates The French Chef by a couple of decades. It's an offbeat history, including surprises such as a blind chef aided on air by her 10-year-old son and a young Ernie Kovacs as emergency substitute host on a local cooking show. In the second part, Polan dissects The French Chef in detail, from its concept to the several variations over the years. Polan includes minutiae such as correspondence between the Childs and the producers at WGBH, the grocery receipts Julia Child submitted for reimbursement, and flyers inviting viewers to attend tapings of the show. The details are pretty interesting, I must admit, but so are the more general observations that Polan makes, such as that Julia Child wasn't just a cooking show host, she was a TV host, on a par with Captain Kangaroo, Jack LaLanne, and Vampira. And although she wasn't assuming an alter-ego, she was playing a role of sorts, as she even acknowledged when she referred to "the performance of me." Polan notes that for all her emphasis on preparing French food, Julia Child embodied American-ness. She was large and energetic and confident. She seemed friendly and unaffected. Despite not fitting any of the usual TV stereotypes, she became incredibly popular. Do-it-yourself and How-to are as American as apple pie, even if you are showing your audience how to make tarte tatin. Julia Child was also about hard work. She and husband Paul teamed up to create what became an industry, what would later be called a brand, and the brand was Julia Child. Starting with the bestseller Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she jumped at the chance to host her own cooking show and promoted it enthusiastically. She wrote magazine articles and newspaper columns and in 1972 she promoted an early version of the video cassette player. The French Chef was the first PBS program to feature captioning for the hearing-impaired. Julia Child's The French Chef is big, exuberant, down-to-earth, a lot of fun, extrememly informative, and pays serious attention to detail and research. I think Julia Child would have approved.
DSaff More than 1 year ago
Julia Child was a larger than life personality who revolutionized the way people viewed cooking shows, and the preparation and enjoyment of food. Yes, there were cooking shows before "The French Chef," but Dana Polan shows us in his book how Ms. Child's mannerisms and character combined with her love of French cooking to produce one of the most memorable cooking shows in television history. The show ran from 1963 - 1973, first in black and white then transitioning to color, leaving her mark on generations of viewers. The popularity of the show proved that a chef with a sense of humor, the opportunity to make and fix mistakes on the air, the love of bringing food to life, and the love of inviting people into her kitchen would be a huge success. Her invitation to cook and dine brought a "friendness" to the kitchen, which had many times been a place of drudgery. Dana Polan has done a tremendous amount of research to show just how revolutionary "The French Chef" was. the pictures and cartoons he has added bring flavor to the pages. One of the interesting points he makes is that Julia Child wanted the viewer to be more like a participant, desiring that camera angles were over her shoulder, not just front view of hands. While that didn't happen, she would romp around the kitchen making the camera and viewer follow along. Come, join him on this wonderful adventure into the history and learn more about the influence of "Julia Child's The French Chef." This is a truly wonderful book. It was fun to relive my childhood memories of the show and to see how it ties into cooking shows before and after it. Julia Child tried to make French cooking look fun and normal for everyone, and this book brought all of those memories back. This book has encouraged me to look for her show wherever I can find it. It is a great book for individuals to read, but I also recommend it to groups especially if you can watch a show and discuss the book together. I received an advance copy through Net Galley and thank them for it!