Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Outing Julia Child

Before there was a CIA, during World War II, there was the OSS and now more than half a century later the National Archives is releasing files on almost 24,000 Americans who worked for the agency, including Julia Child.

Although she will be mentioned in the same breath as Valerie Plame, there was nothing covert about Julia, with whom I worked for more than a decade and whose only secretive moment came on camera when she dropped food on the kitchen floor, picked it up and confided to viewers, "Don't forget. If you're alone in the kitchen, no one will know."

The OSS revelations won't come as news to anyone who knew her, since she reveled in telling about her most dramatic exploit, helping to cook up a shark repellent to coat underwater explosives and keep them away from devices meant to blow up German U-boats.

The newly released list is a reminder of that innocent time when secretly working for your country was a source of pride for people like historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who later worked in JFK's White House as well as two sons of Theodore Roosevelt and Sterling Hayden, the actor now immortalized as Al Pacino's first murder victim in "The Godfather."

Nobody had to worry about the likes of Scooter Libby blabbing their names.


R. S. Abrinaud said...

I still find it absolutely disgusting that Scooter Libby and the others who compromised Valerie Plame's career essentially got off scott free. There was a severe perversion of justice, and those responsible should be ashamed to show their faces in public.

Grace Nearing said...

I remember watching several years ago a wonderful A&E Biography episode on Julia Child that featured her work with the OSS, where she met her future husband, so I am surprised about today's news reports that treat it like an astonishing revelation. As you point out, she was not a covert agent.

One story from the bio still makes me laugh. For a mandatory college course in cooking, Julia, then distinctly uninterested in cooking, was required to give a demonstration on sauteing. She did. She sauted a pair of tennis shoes.