RIP Julia Child — I’m not too sure what her reputation outside of America was in the food world, so if others could chime in, but in it, she was hands down the queen when it came to famous chefs. Like many my age, I think I first learned of her less by her work than by the affectionate parodies she inspired by being herself — a tall, humorous woman who used her appearance and voice to brilliant effect at capturing an audience, someone perfectly balanced between an easy showmanship and a random happens-as-it-does conversational flow. I still recall one of my dad’s officers doing a hilarious, perfect imitation of her style — had she only been a raconteur or comedian, say, she would have been memorable for that reason alone.

But of course, she was more than that — a veteran of World War II via work in America’s Office of Strategic Services, literally a world-hopper, she took the opportunity of a marriage and stationing in Paris to study at the Cordon Bleu, and from there did exactly what every truly great popularizer did, brought her knowledge to anyone willing to read and then to watch and discover on their own. Taking advantage of TV was a stroke of genius, pure and simple, and the result is something that finds the right balance between the Food Network’s hyperedited slickness and the goofy oddness of local access cable, but literally combining the best of both. She wasn’t a god or goddess, she was a very, very good cook who could show and teach, and that’s what matters.

A far more eloquent description of her legacy is found in this ILE post from my friend Stripey. Well worth the read indeed. Tonight I’ll be eating at a French restaurant with a friend, so it won’t be a home-cooked meal — but I’ll definitely raise a glass to someone who, above all else, wanted to share and demonstrate and encourage. That, right there, is a role model.