Category Archives: archives

Julia Child: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Line of Fire

Julia Child worked for the Office of Strategic Services. That’s not new information; the New York Times mentioned it in 1994 when her husband’s obituary. The 2002 NPR story, The Lady Was a Spy, talked about Child’s role in developing a shark repelent coating for underwater explosives! The Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe has Julia Child’s Papers, which include several documents on her time at OSS. Unfortunately, the library has very little of that collection online, but the Julia Child Papers finding aid is fascinating.

Just yesterday, Aug 13, an AP story came out about the opening of OSS personnel records at the National Archives; like the NARA press release issued the week before, the AP story emphasized famous OSS personnel including Julia Child. I had no idea Julia Child was employed by the precursor to the CIA, and it really struck a chord with me.

Julia Child OSS Record
Here’s a screenshot of the NARA record for OSS employee Julia Child, née McWilliams. I’ve requested a copy of the file from the National Archives…can’t wait to get it.

Julia Child Searches
This Google Trends Graph shows that the idea of the celebrity chef spy resonated with a lot of other people too. The graph shows peaks of searches about Julia Child last night, when the AP story came out, and today, when everyone else read the emails their friends sent them about it. Kudos to the NARA PR people for getting so many people to read a story that’s basically about archives and government documents.

As an example of how the OSS files story inspired me, title ideas for this blog post included…

Just a Splash of Death
Add Two Cups of Covert Intelligence
Julia Child, International Woman of Mystery
If you can’t stand the heat…..DIE!
Recipe for Disaster
A Deadly Concoction
Danger to Taste
This Recipe Will Self Destruct

Ah, the world’s a fine place. Well, since l can’t get to Boston or College Park right now, I think i’ll pay another visit to the Smithsonian’s wonderful online exhibit on Julia Child and the companion site about working with the grande dame to create the exhibit.