Julia Child Described Her First Meal In France As The Most Exciting Of Her Life

Julia Child was a culinary legend. Her home kitchen resides in The National Museum of American History, and she is largely credited with bringing French cuisine stateside. Her culinary career didn’t begin when she was particularly young, though. In fact, she wasn’t interested in cooking initially. One meal, the one she described as the “most exciting meal of my life,” changed everything, though.

Julia Child moved to France to be with her husband during a government assignment

Long before her cookbook was released and decades before she began her career as an instantly-likable television chef,  Child was an employee of the United States government. Her government job led her to her husband, Paul Child, and his own position with the State Department led them to France.

Julia Child (L) and husband, Paul Child, enjoying a glass of wine in outdoor setting.
Julia Child and Paul Child,| Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

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The Childs moved to Paris in 1948 and spent several years in Europe before heading back stateside. Once back in the United States, Child’s media career began. By the time The French Chef premiered Child was in her 50s. She worked into the 1990s, eventually retiring to Montecito, California. Her life in France was so pivotal that the world would probably have never gotten to meet the ever-optimistic chef without it.

What did Julia Child eat at La Couronne?

The Childs’ very first meal in France was at La Couronne in Rouen, about an hour from where their ship docked. The eatery, famed for its classic French cuisine, was established in the 1300s. That meal had a deep impact on Child, and she would go on to explain it in glorious, delicious detail decades after the plates had been cleared. So, what exactly did Child eat that day?

The Childs began their first meal with oysters, enjoying them alongside rye bread and butter. For the main course, the pair ordered Sole meunière, reportedly at the urging of their waiter. Sole Meuniere is a pan-fried fish dish that is accompanied by a brown butter sauce and garnished with parsley, according to Wikipedia. For their final course, Paul ordered the pair coffee and formage blanc. They also dined on Salade Verte, and, as Child mentioned in her book My Life in France, she experienced a true French baguette for the first time that day. She walked away from the meal with a new appreciation for France, but it seemingly ignited something else in her, too.

She insisted the first meal the couple had in France was the most exciting of her life

Child and her husband ate that first meal shortly after docking in France. The couple had made the journey across the ocean, along with their station wagon, on the S.S. America. The trip had been a difficult one. Leaving New York in late October 1948, they encountered a terrible storm. In her book, My Life in France, Child recalled that she and Paul were among the only passengers who made it to the ship’s dining room for several days.

Julia Child portrait session
Julia Child | George Rose/Getty Images

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By the time they found their way back onto dry land, they were ready for a real meal. Leaving Le Hevre, the pair drove toward Paris, stopping in Rouen to dine. There, Child found the ambiance of France and the French people charming. She enjoyed the way they treated food as an art and a pastime. She described her meal at La Couronne as the “most exciting” meal of her life.

Later, Child referred to the meal as the most important of her life, according to The New Yorker. That meal reportedly changed everything for Child and inspired her to develop her love of food, which eventually led to her time at Le Cordon Bleu, which ultimately led to her cookbooks and cooking show.