Julia Child Inspired Padma Lakshmi Through More Than Just Food

Padma Lakshmi is publicly celebrating the memory of Julia Child on Twitter. "Julia Child was such an inspiration to me," she tweeted. "She was far from perfect in her cooking, but approached food with endless curiosity & openness." Lakshmi then continued to explain how Child's influence extended beyond the kitchen to her support of reproductive rights, sharing this tweet was prompted by the film "Julia" by Sony Pictures.

The spirit of openness and curiosity can be seen in Lakshmi's program "Taste the Nation," specifically when she talked to a Trump supporter in the El Paso episode who hired Mexican cooks. Later, she explained her reasoning in an interview with Eater: "I thought it was important to have him in the show. Again, while it's not a piece of journalism, I think it improved my credibility if I try to be as impartial as I can and show both sides."

However, the inspiration Lakshmi credits to Child rests more on her politics: "Not only did she change the way Americans cook & eat, but she was an advocate for reproductive health, rights, & a big supporter of @PPFA [Planned Parenthood]." This message cannot be read without noting that the upcoming season of "Top Chef" takes place in Texas, which has upset some fans due to their recently passed anti-abortion laws.

Julia Child represented a democratizing force

The documentary "Julia," of course, covers the life of Julia Child, so it is worth noting that it does give credence to Child's political beliefs. These, as Datebook shares, include the previously mentioned fight for reproductive rights and support of Planned Parenthood, her "advocating for gay rights," and her activism during the AIDS epidemic. 

However, before going overboard with praise for her beliefs, it is worth noting that they were not as modern as many would have you think. Speaking about a book containing six interviews with Child, Helen Rosner, the James Beard award-winning writer and food correspondent for the New Yorker, told Electric Lit that a lot of Child's opinions on reproductive rights would be considered controversial today. "It's really important to acknowledge, though, that she also talked about things we now understand to be coded references to racism or ableism," shared Rosner.

Regardless of any controversy, Child's support of reproductive and gay rights, along with her ability to teach basic cooking skills without judgement, helped the chef represent a democratizing force in American culture. Those personal aspects, along with her culinary skill, are what Padma Lakshmi calls "an inspiration."