A global culinary icon, Julia Child virtually single-handedly transformed the way America thought of food. Her seminal, encyclopedic work “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (Alfred A. Knopf, 1961) and her hugely popular PBS series “The French Chef“, which premiered in 1963 and ran for a decade, established her as the grande dame of classic French cooking in America.
Not just an on-screen cooking instructor, Julia Child became a celebrity in her own right, a cross-cultural phenomenon popular enough to be lampooned on “Saturday Night Live“. She blazed the trail for countless others, from Graham Kerr and Jacques Pepin to Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray and the entire line-up of the Food Network. Author of 18 books, starring in 8 television series with more than 400 episodes to her credit, Julia Child made an impact on the nation’s culinary tastes, sophistication and knowledge the likes of which will never be equaled.
Born Julia McWilliams on 15 August 1912 to a well-to-do family in Pasadena, California, Julia was known as a flighty party girl in her teens and twenties. With no particular career direction, she studied just enough to keep her head held high at Smith College, where she graduated in 1934, then spent several years as a copywriter in the ad department of a New York home furnishings company. When America entered the Second World War, Julia wanted to do her part, applying for secretarial work at the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), the forerunner of the CIA.
Her educational background made her useful, and although she was never an undercover agent herself, she did devise the coded filing system by which the agency kept track of their many foreign operatives. After a year at OSS headquarters in Washington DC, she was posted to Ceylon, then China. While in Ceylon in 1943 she met Paul Child, a New Jersey native ten years her senior, an artist who was working for the Foreign Service as a cartographer, then hired to design Earl Mountbatten’s headquarters. He had spent several years in Paris, was a cultivated, worldly gourmand, and found the down-to-earth Julia a bit unsophisticated for his taste at first.
Paul introduced her to fine cuisine, but Julia didn’t have a flair for it. They became friends, then fell in love and married in 1946, after the war. Paul Child remained with the Foreign Service and was posted to Paris in 1948, where Julia’s life would take a dramatic turn. Her first contact with genuine French food, a dish of sole meuniere in Rouen, was a revelatory experience she later described as “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.” Bored with her life as a minor diplomat’s wife, and anxious to contribute something meaningful to their relationship, Julia determined to herself master the fabulous cooking techniques she and Paul enjoyed nightly on their forays into Parisian cafes and restaurants.
She enrolled at the prestigious cooking school le Cordon Bleu, where she was initially placed in the truncated course offered for English-speaking tourists. But Julia was after mastery, and insisted on transferring to the chef training class, where she was the only woman. In 1951 she met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, who were working on a book of French cooking for the American market. Julia was a natural choice as collaborator, translating their stilted English phraseology into American idioms; the three opened a cooking school for expatriate American women in Julia’s Paris kitchen, and meanwhile labored for a decade on their magnum opus, testing and re-testing thousands of recipes. After several rejections and rewrites, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was finally published in 1961.
The book made a sensation. JFK and Jackie had just entered the White House, elegance was in style, and Americans were developing a mania for everything French—the French were the post-war arbiters of taste and refinement. At 734 pages, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” became a best-seller much applauded for making the intricacies of Gallic cuisine accessible to Americans, with extensive illustrations and detailed, precise instructions (sometimes over-precise: the entry on hard-boiled eggs runs four pages and includes 6 drawings). By this time the Childs had relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the year after “Mastering” was published, Julia was invited to appear on the local Boston PBS book review program. Wanting to enliven the interview, she requested a hot plate to demonstrate the correct procedure for making an omelet, and thus was born her television career.
Within six months WGBH had signed her to a cooking show, “The French Chef“, which ran nationally for a full decade and more than 200 episodes, spawning several books and winning the first Emmy for educational programming. At 6’2″ tall, the imposing Julia made an instant impact, looming over the camera behind counters especially designed by her husband to accommodate her height, expounding in her warbling, deep-throated falsetto on the finer points of trussing a chicken, unmolding an aspic or blind-baking a pate sucre. She was always herself, warts and all, and Americans found her engaging and approachable, laughing with her when culinary mishaps occurred during the live-to-tape filmings, which were unedited. In 1971 she again paired with Simone Beck to produce Volume Two of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking“, and went on to host seven successive TV series, including “Julia Child & Company’, “Dinner at Julia’s” and “Baking with Julia“, which featured guest chef appearances that helped to springboard the careers of many promising young chefs, including Sara Moulton, now food editor for ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Julia continued working well into her 80’s, finally retiring and moving back to California in 2001; her husband Paul had died in 1994. She donated her Cambridge kitchen, the stage set for many of her PBS series which Paul had designed, complete with its effects, to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, where it is on display, painstakingly recreated down to the minute labels for utensils on the pegboard walls. Julia Child died of kidney failure at her Montecito home on August 13, 2004, just two days shy of her 92nd birthday.
Born 15 August 1912 at 11:30 PM PST in Pasadena, California, Julia’s birth chart is an excellent case study in the positive effects of galactic contacts, and the larger-than-life personas they can evoke.
The Sun at 23 Leo opposes a Quasar at 24 Aquarius and squares a Black Hole at 24 Taurus, forming a Galactic T-Square which yokes the transformative, reality-altering powers of the Black Hole with the tremendous attention-getting abilities of the Quasar, all focused on Julia’s core essence, who she is at her most basic level (Sun). Black Holes allow us to birth potential from the plethora of possibilities in the parallel dimensions to which they are connected, permanently and powerfully altering our reality, and that of those around us. Quasars scream “Here I am!” like setting a beacon on a hilltop. The individual with contacts to one stands out in a crowd, much in the way Julia towered over most women and many men—it was impossible to miss her when she walked into the room. It is the combination of the contrasting attractive powers of both these anomalies, the Black Hole magnetizing, compelling and commanding, the Quasar sparkling, electrifying, shining a spotlight, that made Julia such a winsome and engaging character.
The Sun conjoins asteroid Pallas at 28 Leo; its enhanced pattern-seeing abilities and native intelligence were key in helping her develop the OSS’s spy cataloging system, as well as the detailed, precise instructions in her cookbooks.
Julia sported a Jupiter/Saturn opposition in her chart which closely straddles the Ascendant/Descendant axis, its angularity highlighting its importance in her life. Jupiter/Saturn is about building structure, expanding from a solid foundation to encompass more and more. With Saturn ruling career, and Jupiter ruling foreign travel, we can see the importance of “going global” for Julia’s full development—it was meeting Paul in Ceylon that changed her life, and encountering French cuisine in Rouen that gave her a focus for the career that was waiting to happen for her.
Saturn at 3 Gemini exactly opposes a Black Hole 3 Sagittarius, and Black Hole Saturn natives often lack initial direction in career, bouncing from one field to another, until they find their niche and excel. This is clearly the pattern for Julia, whose early work years were a hotchpotch of copywriting, advertising, and clerical work for espionage agencies, before finding her true calling in cuisine at the advanced age of 37, not achieving prominence until her 50s. Jupiter at 5 Sagittarius is also exactly conjunct a Black Hole; it was the contact with foreign places and persons which would prove truly transformative, altering her reality and opening her to the latent potential within her.
Mercury at 3 Virgo conjoins a Pulsar and forms a T-Square with the Jupiter/Descendant-Saturn/Ascendant axis, showing thought, communication, and writing to be key to Julia’s worldly success. The Pulsar here shows an affinity with the media, a natural ability to communicate and utilize that medium in familiar/folksy, yet effective ways, projecting at once competence (Saturn) and warmth or bonhomie (Jupiter).
Mercury’s focus in Virgo is analytic, detail-oriented and results-driven, and accounts for the endless repetition and reworking of recipes until she got them just right—for Julia, it was do the job correctly, or don’t do it at all. Julia craved mastery (Saturn) of the subject of her studies (Mercury), and wanted not just a surface knowledge, but something deep and broadly based (Jupiter), with genuine understanding (Sagittarius) of the techniques (Virgo) as well as their general, overall application in everyday life (Gemini).
There are several celestial markers of culinary interest or ability. These include the Moon, which governs nurturance and the domestic arts in general; asteroids Hestia and Vesta, respectively the Greek and Roman goddesses of the hearth and home; and asteroids Demeter and Ceres, the divine Greek and Roman counterparts ruling agriculture and grains.
Julia’s Moon at 11 Libra is closely conjunct Hestia at 10 Libra, and together they conjoin the Black Hole at 13 Libra and oppose the Quasar at 10 Aries, repeating the Black Hole/Quasar dynamic of her Sun, so effective in projecting herself and altering the status quo reality, making her a force for major change in the food world. The double whammy of Moon and Hestia reinforce each other’s separate culinary bent, while the galactics indicate total immersion and absorption (Black Hole) in the field, coupled with recognition for one’s efforts, success, rewards and accolades (Quasar). Moon/Hestia is also just past the semisquare to the Sun, bringing them into a Crescent Phase relationship, which indicates the emergence of something new from the regenerative dark of the New Moon, a fresh breaking forth of a new cycle, full of energy, dynamism and potential.
Demeter at 6 Leo and Ceres at 12 Virgo both square Black Holes (at 6 Scorpio and 10 Sagittarius, respectively), while Vesta at 1 Libra conjoins one—three more reasons for Julia to expend vast amounts of energy in culinary pursuits, probing into the depths of the subject and helping to transform others’ culinary realities. Her enthusiasm was obvious and captivating, tempting her viewers to join her in an exploration of this brave new gastronomic world. Ceres joined to the natal Jupiter/Saturn/Mercury T-Square by a conjunction with Mercury at 3 Gemini establishes her as a food (Ceres) writer (Mercury), making this pivotal in both her career (Saturn) and her fame (Jupiter). Ceres also conjoins Mars at 18 Virgo, providing more energy for culinary pursuits and showing Julia as a leader in the field.
Demeter is sextile Saturn, while Vesta is in trine, adding further emphasis to the choice of cuisine as a career move. Demeter’s opposition to Uranus at 0 Aquarius, which is also trine Vesta and Saturn, brings in the “alien” element into the equation—it was not the cuisine of her home country which made Julia famous, but that of an alien culture to which she found herself drawn, and which she adapted for her countrymen’s use. These points of Uranus, Saturn and Vesta together form a Grand Trine, a major configuration of vast, but often untapped, potential, which Demeter’s Uranian opposition converts into a kite, with Demeter as the tail, providing direction and “steerage,” thus giving focus to the potential of the pattern.
There are asteroids named “Julia” (#89), “Paul” (#3525) and “Child” (#4580), which feature prominently in Julia’s birth chart. Asteroid Julia at 17 Cancer opposes the Black Hole at 19 Capricorn and broadly squares the 11 Libra Moon, combining Julia’s persona with the cooking (Moon) for which she would become a virtual synonym, and which would transform (Black Hole) her life. Julia is also semisquare Saturn at 3 Gemini, giving her a personal connection to a prominence based on career; it was essential to be herself, in order to transform into the public figure she became. Asteroid Child at 9 Scorpio squares the Black Hole at 9 Leo and is conjunct asteroid Sisyphus, indicating the painstaking repetition of recipes while researching her first book, and is in exact trine to natal Chiron at 9 Pisces, eliciting the role of teacher or mentor as she grew into her adulthood, represented by her married surname.
Most strikingly, asteroid Paul at 5 Virgo conjoins both Venus at 4 Virgo, indicating the love of her life, and Mercury at 3 Virgo, denoting his importance in her writing, every word of which he proofed for her, suggesting tweaks and rewrites for clarity or style. Asteroid Paul’s square to Saturn at 3 Gemini reflects his influence in her career, not only as the man who introduced her to fine cuisine, but his constant support, designing the sets for her series and supplying photos for several of her books; the exact square to Jupiter signals the impact of foreign locales on their connection, the meeting in Ceylon, their early married years in Paris, as well as the desire to “live the good life” as expressed in food.
When “The French Chef” premiered in Boston at 8 PM EST on 11 February 1963, the heavens well reflected this pivotal moment of Julia’s life. All four angles aspect the Galactic Center at 26 Sagittarius, with, appropriately, the domestic-ruling Fourth House cusp conjoined it from 25 Sag. The Ascendant at 26 Virgo exactly squares the GC, and denotes the highly detailed, “teaching” focus of the series. GC contacts promote global attention and notice, signifying something enduring and with universal impact.
Asteroid Eros at 21 Sagittarius closely conjunct the Fourth House cusp signals Julia’s passion (Eros) for the subject, which was evident. The Sun at 22 Aquarius is conjunct Saturn at 14 Aquarius and a Quasar at 25 Aquarius, and falls in the Fifth House, opposing Julia’s natal Sun. Sun/Saturn also shows the teaching focus of the show, the Quasar guarantees high visibility, the Fifth House represents its accent on expressing one’s creativity, and the series Sun’s opposition to Julia’s own shows her at the zenith of her life, the fruition of her efforts.
The Moon at 1 Libra is an exact match for Julia’s natal Vesta, and falls in the First House, conjoined the Ascendant, establishing the culinary topic of the show and its vast appeal to women (both Moon). Vesta at 0 Libra is returning to its natal degree, and Moon/Vesta together conjoin the supermassive Black Hole at 1 Libra, indicating the powerful draw the show would have and its longevity, spanning a decade. Hestia is in trine from 2 Gemini, conjoined Julia’s natal Saturn, publicly establishing cooking as her career, and falls in the Ninth House, prefiguring the publishing career that would flow from the show, with a dozen books based on this and future series.
Asteroids Julia and Paul combine in a cooperative and exact sextile, with Julia at 8 Scorpio and Paul at 8 Capricorn; this was very much a joint effort. Julia’s Julia conjoins her natal Child at 9 Scorpio and also transit Neptune at 15 Scorpio, which is exactly on a Pulsar, linking her first and last names and marking “Julia Child” as the TV star (Neptune) and media figure (Pulsar) she would become.
Asteroid Paul appears in the foundational/domestic Fourth House, and this duo is linked further to transit asteroid Child at 9 Virgo, sextile Julia and trine Paul, while conjunct Julia’s natal Mercury/Ceres, her need to communicate and teach about food.
Child is also conjunct transit Uranus (innovation, expertise, technology) at 3 Virgo (itself exactly conjoined natal Mercury, indicating her somewhat unusual communication style); transit Pluto (transformation) at 11 Virgo (conjunct natal Ceres, predictive of the impact she would have on cuisine in America) and transit Ceres at 15 Virgo (also conjunct natal Mars, expressing the gusto, animation and joie de vivre in her presentations).
Chiron has returned to its natal degree at 9 Pisces, showing Julia coming into her own as a teacher, guide and mentor, comfortable in her own skin, perhaps for the first time. In the Sixth House, it indicates the thrust of Julia’s culinary philosophy and teaching—that fine food is not just for special occasions, or elite restaurant fare.
For Julia Child, haute cuisine was an everyday thing, something she wanted to be accessible to everyone in their own kitchens, which was a radically new perspective in that era, and one that transformed American tastes, cooking habits and the nation’s relationship with food for that, and future generations.