Julia Child's First Experience With A Microwave Was Quite The Disaster

Famous chef Julia Child's first experiment with a new-fangled machine called a microwave oven was a bomb. Not in a literal sense, of course. But based on reports of her mid-20th-century adventure in using the then-novel cooking gadget, the scene involved lots of rumbling, clouds of smoke, and an oozing goo. On the plus side, the gooey substance was melted chocolate cake, so there's that. 

In 2018, Child's grand-nephew, Alex Prud'homme, entertained fans of the pioneering chef with personal tales about his late aunt. According to a report in The Ellsworth American, Prud'homme shared the story during an appearance to promote his 2017 book, "France is a Feast: The Photographic Journey of Paul and Julia Child". "It was this magical space-age thing from NASA," Prud'homme told the attendees. "She was told you could cook everything in it." 

We're not sure what happened next, but we're going to surmise, based on Prud'homme's account, that Child took the experts at their word, loading a frozen chicken, side-dish vegetables, and even a chocolate cake into the microwave. "She pushed the button and it kind of rumbled and began to smoke," he continued. The result? A mash-up of half-frozen-half-burned chicken, melted chocolate cake, and an unrecognizable vegetable mush. Based on that disastrous account, it's no wonder Child decided to keep microwave ovens at an arm's length for the rest of her storied career.

There's a time and a place for everything

That's not to say that Julia Child shunned all modern conveniences. That would be counter to the fearless approach to cooking that she instilled in her loyal following. Instead, the author of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and host of the groundbreaking television show "The French Chef" chose to be circumspect in its application. 

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune to promote the release of her 1989 cookbook "The Way to Cook" — an ode to adapting traditional cooking methods to complement changing tastes and techniques — Child explained her position on convenience gadgets. By that point in her career, she had embraced the food processor, calling it a marvelous instrument that had revolutionized the kitchen. "If it had been around before the original 'Mastering' series, the books would have been entirely different," she told the Chicago Tribune. The microwave, though, not so much. 

Child addressed her mixed feelings about it in the introduction of her book "The Way to Cook," writing, "I wouldn't be without my microwave oven, but I rarely use it for real cooking. I like having complete control over my food — I want to turn it, smell it, poke it, stir it about, and hover over its every state." Child did, however, acknowledge the gadget's appeal as an occasional shortcut — say, for instance, when defrosting or reheating food. And on the rare occasion when she mentioned microwave ovens in her recipes, Child inevitably included a cautionary note along with a nod to her preference for more traditional methods.