Public Places Private Lives

Julia Child, gastronome extraordinaire

She changed America's approach to cooking with the 1961 book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, followed two years later by her first television show, The French Chef. Known for her candor and passion, Child has written eight books and hosted seven TV programs. When she left her longtime Cambridge, Massachusetts, home for Santa Barbara last November, the Smithsonian moved her kitchen intact to Washington, D.C. In celebration of Child's 90th year, Jackie Cooperman asked her to reflect on a lifetime of moveable feasts.

BEST DINNER COMPANIONS Alfred A. Knopf and his wife in my Cambridge kitchen 15 or 20 years ago. He was like a bomb going off every minute. I think I served veal. My husband, Paul, who loved good cigars, offered Mr. Knopf one after dinner, but he had already pulled out his own—he didn't wait for his host to do anything.

WHAT I LOVE Perfectly roasted chicken; green asparagus, carefully peeled and boiled 'til just tender.

WHAT I HATE Undercooked vegetables. Properly cooked vegetables are not "crunchy."

CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS In the '60s you couldn't get good veal here. No one knew what it was. Coming back from France once, I brought a beautiful pale-pink roast and declared it at Customs. They pounced on it. They probably ate it. I didn't try again.

WHEN IN LONDON Harrods has such glorious edibles on display: meats of all kinds, young ducks for roasting, game birds, all sorts of fish, a multitude of cheeses.

I COULDN'T LIVE WITHOUT My Joyce Chen scissors. The fine Chinese cook, author, and former Boston-area restaurant owner makes and sells six-inch-long shears with short, tough, pointed blades—great for eating crabs and lobsters since you can cut through the shells easily and get to the meat.

WINE OF CHOICE Santa Barbara Pinot Noir from the Sant Ynez Valley. It's one of my favorite wines. Or a great white Burgundy. I love a well-aged, mature Cabernet—Beringer has a good one.

IF PRICE WERE NO OBJECT I suppose I'd buy fresh goose foie gras, fresh French black truffles, some of that very rare balsamic vinegar from Modena, and fresh California abalone.

OVERRATED Specialty salts. I don't use any. Salt is salt.

IF I HAD $1,000 FOR DINNER Maybe Le Grand Véfour in Paris. I'd have small servings of oysters, foie gras, and caviar, then a cup of lobster bisque. Next, pressed duck with potatoes Anna and green asparagus tips in butter. Some delectable cheeses, a small salad, and crèpes Suzette. For wines, I'd have a top-of-the-heap Krug to start, through the lobster bisque. A fine vintage Burgundy from Romanée Conti for the duck. With the cheese maybe a well-aged Cabernet, like the 1992 Reserve from Beringer. With the crèpes, definitely an Yquem, not too old; it should still have some of its fresh fruit.

$10 FOR DINNER The In-N-Out Burger in Santa Barbara. I just get their regular cheeseburger with everything on it. Their french fries are very good, and they're made right there. And the buns are good—they're toasted.

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER It was in the wonderful dining room at the Hôtel de Paris in Monaco. There was an orchestra playing that marvelous hotel music, and Colette, with a mop of gray hair, was wheeled in. I'll never forget how intently she looked at every plate that passed by and watched what everyone was eating.