In Julia Season One Episode Seven, ” Foie Gras,” directed by Jenee LaMarque, Julia Child’s (Sarah Lancashire) bubble is burst by Feminist icon Betty Friedan (Tracee Chimo Pallero) during a New York-based gala honoring The French Chef.
Julia takes her husband Paul Cushing Child (David Hyde Pierce), best friend Avis DeVoto (Bebe Neuwirth), and book editor Judith Jones (Fiona Glascott) to the public television New York gala. They go along with The French Chef’s director-producer Russ Morash (Fran Kranz), producer Alice Naman (Brittany Bradford), and WGBH President Hunter Fox (Robert Joy). Sadly, Paul develops low-grade flu during their trip, leaving him unable to go to lunch at a fabulous French restaurant with Julia. Thankfully he musters up the strength to attend the gala to support his wife.
Julia dines at the French restaurant with Judith and her boss, President of Alfred A. Knopf Inc Blanche Knopf (Judith Light). Judith spends the lunch trying to prove Julia’s value as a cookbook author to Blanche. However, Blanche finds Julia’s enthusiasm for food annoying. She is not impressed with Julia’s television career, but she sells the importance of the author finishing her second cookbook. The author doesn’t seem bothered by Blanche’s tense remarks but feels the sting of a sexist comment by the restaurant’s head chef Andre. Meanwhile, Avis uses Paul’s sickness as an excuse not to go on her first date since her husband died. Sparks fly during Alice’s blind date with a newly minted lawyer.
Judith confronts Blanche about why she was so rude to Julia. Blanche tells Judith off for wasting precious time editing Julia’s “frivolous” cookbooks instead of focusing on her legacy as an award-winning novel editor. Later they all meet up for the gala, where Julia delivers a beautiful speech about how The French Chef is a “travel program” that allows homemakers to explore new worlds through cooking. Julia hopes that her love for life infects her audience.
IS JULIA A CHEF?
Julia rides an emotional and intellectual rollercoaster throughout ” Foie Gras,” starting with her working lunch at a French restaurant. She revels in her delicious mouth-watering meal when the chef Andre comes over to their table. Andre warmly greets repeat customers Blanche and Judith. Julia compliments the chef’s cooking gushing that it’s as good as any meal she has had in Europe. Andre takes the compliment to heart. Julia doesn’t even have to introduce herself because he recognizes her from The French Chef. He loves the television show—Julia giggles in glee that people in the culinary world know her.
The two joke that because Andre was born in France that he is the real “French Chef.” Julia spreads laughter and happiness wherever she travels. Andre praises Julia telling her how many of his customers ask him to cook dishes from her program. He has even been able to move sweetbread because of The French Chef. Judith pointedly stares at Blanche, delighted that now there is proof of the importance of her friend’s show. Julia feels on top of the world with an incredible chef cheering her on.
Andre poisons the celebratory mood by asking her for a favor. He begs Julia to leave “the real cooking to the men.” Julia’s face falls as Andre argues that women don’t belong in restaurants, no matter their culinary education or accomplishments. Then, he walks away, leaving Julia in a state of shock. The table turns silent until Blanche dryly offers to pay the check.
Julia feels fired up by the sexist comment. She edits her speech to representatives of all the public television show channels in the United States. Julia announces during her address that she “doesn’t cook for chefs.” Instead, she makes The French Chef for other women to empower them by broadening their horizons. Julia hopes they feel the same sense of accomplishment she does after cooking a delicious meal.
FEMINIST OR OUTDATED HOUSEWIFE?
Julia Season One executive producers Daniel Goldfarb and Christopher Keyser have stated that one of the questions the series explores is if Julia Child represents feminism or traditional values of femininity. ” Foie Gras” delves into this during her explosive conversation with Betty Friedan.
The eighth episode, in many ways, argues that Julia is a feminist icon. While delivering the speech, Julia highlights all the incredible women she brought with her during her journey into stardom. The television personality invites her best friend Avis to the gala and publicly thanks her for her contribution to The French Chef even though she doesn’t officially work for WGBH. She acknowledges Judith for taking the time out of her busy schedule working with intellectual novelists like John Updike to edit Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Finally, Julia calls young producer Alice, a future television innovator. She fought for Alice to become an official producer on The French Chef when no one else was awarding the younger woman for all her hard work. Julia advocates for other women all the time.
Julia Child is essentially one of the creative producers of The French Chef. She designs the “menu” for each season, writes all the scrips, takes part in greenlighting editing, and essentially invented the idea of a cooking television show. Julia Child represents The French Chef because her personality and culinary skills are why it’s popular. Julia works hard on her television show while co-writing another cookbook and taking care of her husband. However, Betty Friedan makes excellent points about how the television personality has made it harder for women to succeed.
During a conversation about Betty’s new book, The Feminine Mystique, the feminist shares that she doesn’t think “Julia is a good example” to other women. Betty argues The French Chef traps wives in the kitchen because of the amount of work it takes to create these elaborate French dishes. The thirty-minute television show creates the illusion that these meals don’t take days to cook and hours to clean up.
Betty believes that Julia has made it so that homemakers now must cook dishes worthy of three Michelin stars for their husbands, making it challenging to complete their other domestic duties. These women don’t have the time to travel or even dream of pursuing a career. Betty’s comments bring to light issues that Julia has never considered. Julia leaves the ballroom feeling heartbroken, realizing for the first time that some people hate what she stands for.
Does Julia’s perfect 1950’s housewife image make her a symbol of an archaic time? Or does the “French Chef” who heads her own television show make her an ideal example of a 1960s modern woman? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.