by Maggie Mertens
If there’s one thing I’ve learned here at Glamour, it’s that when amazingly successful women share their stories, the result is downright inspiring. So I was thrilled to see Karen Karbo’s fourth, and final, book from her Kick Ass Women Series (the previous three are on Katharine Hepburn, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Coco Chanel) is on one of my favorite women of all time: Julia Child.
Karbo’s Kick Ass books follow a unique structural blend of biography and advice-giving. When you read Julia Child Rules, you not only learn more about Julia’s fascinating life, you come away feeling as though you can be a little bit like Julia too.
We all know Julia changed the way we cook, but what can she teach us about life outside the kitchen? A lot, it turns out. Here are a few of our favorite lessons from the book:
“If she wanted to do something, she did it.”
“The thing that all the women I wrote about have in common is that once they hooked into what they felt passionate about, what they felt their life’s calling was, they didn’t question themselves,” Karbo tells Glamour. Julia struggled early on to find a life she cared about—she didn’t start seriously cooking until she was almost 40! “She was weird and single, and she struggled and made silly choices,” says Karbo. But confidence in herself meant Julia kept trying until she had it all.
“Julia was a devotee of anything that was risky, difficult, and had the potential for catastrophe.”
Karbo’s first chapter is called “Live With Abandon,” the third “Learn to Be Amused,” and the fourth, “Obey Your Whims.” Sensing a pattern here? Julia saw the fun in everything, which made life’s challenges seem more like opportunities for adventure. It’s kind of like, oh, moving to France when you don’t speak French, or writing the seminal cookbook of your time when you’ve been cooking for only few years.
“After the taping, the crew would eat, while Paul did the dishes.”
Julia found love late in life, and in an unlikely partner: Paul Child was 10 years her senior, stood six inches shorter than Julia, and was a very serious intellectual. But once they got past all that and fell in love, he was uber supportive of Julia. Paul helped her prepare for every taping of The French Chef, sometimes staying up all night to help her perfect a segment. When you have big messy dreams, it’s good to have someone around who does your dishes.
“Make this your mantra: I’m never too anything for anything.”
Julia didn’t start her TV career until she was in her fifties, but she was a resounding success because at that point, she wasn’t worried about being too tall, too old, or having a funny voice—she just wanted to teach people to cook. And it worked. Viewers loved Julia for being Julia. (And we still do too!)
“Professionally, she was always curious about what the next crop of chefs were up to, even if she didn’t agree with them.”
Julia had some detractors in her day, but Julia didn’t get competitive with her fellow chefs; instead she reached out. She even started another show: In Julia’s Kitchen With Master Chefs, where she visited other chefs’ kitchens, using potential feuds to bolster her own success.
And if all that advice wasn’t enough for you, watch Julia thoroughly enjoy teaching America how to make (and flip) an omelet. She’s perfection.