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Julia Child's the French Chef (Spin Offs)


Julia Child's the French Chef (Spin Offs) Cover

ISBN13: 9780822348726
ISBN10: 0822348721
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Publisher Comments:

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.


Critical study of Julia Child's pathbreaking cooking show.


Dana Polan considers what made Julia Child s TV show, The French Chef, so popular during its original broadcast and such enduring influences on American cooking, American television, and American culture since then.

About the Author

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 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

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takingadayoff, April 26, 2011 (view all comments by takingadayoff)

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.
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Product Details

Polan, Dana B
Duke University Press
Polan, Dana
Polan, Dana B.
Television - History & Criticism
Cooking and Food-French
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Spin Offs
Publication Date:
34 illustrations
8.25 x 5.88 in

Related Subjects

Biography » Cooking
Cooking and Food » Food Writing » Gastronomic Literature
Cooking and Food » Reference and Etiquette » General
Cooking and Food » Regional and Ethnic » French

Julia Child's the French Chef (Spin Offs) Sale Trade Paper
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Product details 312 pages Duke University Press Books - English 9780822348726 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
Critical study of Julia Child's pathbreaking cooking show.
"Synopsis" by ,
Dana Polan considers what made Julia Child s TV show, The French Chef, so popular during its original broadcast and such enduring influences on American cooking, American television, and American culture since then.
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