Espionage to EscargoT

Veteran: Julia Childs
Artist: Michael Koulermos
WriterMargaret Mandell

First she served her country. Dinner guests came later.

Julia Child is best be known for introducing American palates to French cooking and to her sharp wit (“I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food”).

But before becoming a world-famous chef and author, Julia served her country by handling highly classified information for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA. 

She started as a typist at OSS headquarters in Washington, D.C., but quickly advanced to a top-secret researcher, working directly for the head of the OSS. 

One of her earliest recipes wasn’t for beef bourguignon or coq au vin, but for a shark repellent to prevent the curious fish from Escargot setting off explosives intended for German U-boats. 

Julia was later posted to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and finally Kunming, China, where she met her future husband, Paul Child, also a member of the OSS. 

In 1948, Paul was reassigned to the American Embassy in Paris where Julia traded espionage for escargot, attending the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school — a happy exchange for many Americans who would later learn from Julia, amongst other things, about “the full glory of accidentally”.