Posted by: njbrown | September 11, 2009

Deboning and deboning

September 11, 2009

Curious to see how Julia’s duck was deboned, I searched videos and came across one where she is with one of her master chefs.  He says he is going to debone a duck, but not the twenty-minute way.  He proceeds to tear the duck apart – skin and all – so the result is not the thing of beauty that Julie labored over.  All of which raises the question, “Is Jacques Pepin’s deboned duck the quick and dirty version, or has he found a way to reduce 20-some minutes to 29 seconds?”  I may never know.  I will be very grateful when I get The French Chef DVD’s at Christmas, so I can finally see this whole process! (Update see

A few days ago through the PBS Web site, I found a link to the CIA where they showed Julia’s personnel file.  Julia actually was a spy, and not “just a file clerk.”  This is from the CIA site:

She started out at OSS Headquarters in Washington, working directly for General William J. Donovan, the leader of OSS. Working as a research assistant in the Secret Intelligence division, Julia typed up thousands of names on little white note cards, a system that was needed to keep track of officers during the days before computers. Although her encounters with the General were minor, she recalled later in life that his “aura” always remained with her.  

Julia then worked with the OSS Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section, where she helped develop shark repellent. The repellent was a critical tool during WWII, and was coated on explosives that were targeting German U-boats. Before the introduction of the shark repellent, curious sharks would sometimes set off the explosives when they bumped into them.

From 1944-1945, Julia was sent overseas and worked in Ceylon, present day Sri Lanka, and Kunming, China. During these last two years in the OSS, Julia served as Chief of the OSS Registry. Julia — having top security clearances — knew every incoming and outgoing message that passed throughout her office, as her Registry was serving all the intelligence branches. During her time in Ceylon, Julia handled highly classified papers that dealt with the invasion of the Malay Peninsula. Julia was fascinated with the work, even when there were moments of danger.

Not only did Julia contribute to the efforts of the OSS, but during her time of service, she met her husband. Paul Child was also a OSS officer. He was well traveled, and it was he who opened Julia’s eyes to appreciate fine French cuisine. The two married in September 1946.

The more I learn about Julia, the more curious I become.  She had to be an adventurous person – even traveling to Smith for College from California in the 30s involved challenges.  Going into the equivalent of the CIA, and then accepting a post in a war-torn area required a lot of courage.  Obviously, even though she was relatively young, she was seen to be capable of handling highly secret information.  I want to order her biography written by her grand-nephew as soon as possible.  I hope that will fill in the blanks.




  1. Hi Nancy,
    This is really interesting about Julia. It makes sense because she was a highly intelligent women with so many interesting contacts, a great joie de vivre …and a great cover!!

    I’m so glad you are getting back into cooking. I know you enjoyed it before so glad this has reawakened an old interest! Keep going and I look forward to the next entry


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