I met her for the first time nearly 40 years ago. Someone was selling dolls that looked like her, without her permission, and she invited me discuss the problem over breakfast at her house in Cambridge. I was so excited I could hardly sleep the night before. When I got there, she, her husband Paul, and I went into her back yard. I’ll never forget that meal – tea, grapes, and burnt toast!
The pianist had provided the music for one of her television series. When we got married in 1991, she came to our wedding party. A young man just getting started in the catering business provided the food. Six years later, on the occasion of her 85th birthday, he was one of the chefs at a benefit dinner in her honor.
He reintroduced himself. “You won’t remember me,” he said, and told her he had catered our dinner several years earlier.
She paused for only a second or two, looked down, and replied, “Lamb chops!” She was right, of course.
One day in 1994, she told me she was going to her 60th reunion at Smith College. I made one of my less sage remarks, “I’ll bet you’re the most famous person in your class.”
She said, “I believe I am!”
She never endorsed a product. So, when a company tried to sell food or wine or even computers by using her name or her look or her unique sound, she pounced. This happened several times, and the result was that the transgressor paid some dollar amount for the offense, and she gave the money to her favorite charity, the American Institute of Food and Wine.
Then she would say to me, “I do hope they do it again soon. The Institute needs the money, you know.”
She came to our office several times to have lunch with the summer associates, students entering their last year of law school. We served cold cuts, if you can believe it, and she told them about her life. They would ask questions and talk about their own food preferences.
“I’m too busy to spend time cooking; I usually get take-out,” one young man told her. “That’s not eating,” she said, “that’s feeding.”
One time she needed legal help in California. I contacted a lawyer in San Francisco, who asked what it was about. I said we first needed to clarify the fee arrangement. Trying to sound serious, I said “Your fee is that you get to go to a very good restaurant with the client.” The lawyer thought that seemed odd and asked who it was.
When I answered the question, the response was immediate – “It’s a deal.”
Another time we were co-auctioneers for a Monadnock Music fundraiser in Peterborough. I drove her back to Cambridge, and we talked about life and work. She was 82 at the time, and I asked whether she planned to retire.
“Yes,” she told me, ”When I’m old.”
“When is that?” I asked.
“When I’m 88,” she answered.
She moved from Cambridge to Santa Barbara in 2002. On her way, she took a detour and spent a week in the Town of Napa, California, to help her friend Robert Mondavi dedicate The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts. My daughter was living in Napa, and she told me to have my daughter call her and they would get together for lunch. My daughter made the call and they agreed on a place and time. Just so my daughter would not have a problem knowing which one she was, she said “I’ll be the tall woman wearing the purple blouse.”
She lived to be 91, two days short of her 92d birthday. She would have been 100 on August 15, just a few weeks ago. She often called people she liked “Dearie,” but she was the dear one – Julia Child.