Although only those among us with true kitchen ambition could ever enjoyably tackle a recipe from Julia Childs seminal Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she made us feel like we could. And that was the best thing about her. Child was the first real celebrity cook, the perfect amalgam of Americas budding love for both TV and food. She was a big, rangy Smith girl with a sense of humor and a precise but never fussy approach in the kitchen. She made a point of calling out poseurs, faddists, and finger-wagging nutritionists for trying to kill the joy of eating. She was easy to mimic (thank you, Dan Aykroyd), but her what-the-hell attitude gave us all permission to tackle tough recipes without worrying if we flipped the omelet onto the floor. Bon apptit, Julia.
Kim Severson is the author of Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life