Julia Child died recently. She was an American icon, and I would argue that she was one of the most influential people in American culture in the 20th century. Other people and inventions have changed the way we do business, the way we work, the way we raise children or treat diseases, but Julia Child changed the way we eat, and eating is fundamental to the human condition.
At a time when convenience foods were considered the highest pinnacle of culinary achievement, when a casserole made from various canned goods was what we ate for dinner every night, Julia Child got people back in the kitchen. She reintroduced the Joy of cooking, of making things from scratch, of exploring new and uncharted culinary territory. Convenience foods and fast foods still play a huge role in American culture, but if it weren't for Julia Child, there would be no Gourmet Magazine, no food network, no restaurant movement to counter that.
And she was FUNNY. She went to my high school, which was a very small school and always made me feel specially connected to her, but Julia connected with everyone. She went on TV and into cookbooks and said "I'm going to cook this and I make mistakes, and it's OK if you make mistakes too." And then she'd laugh that wonderful neighing laugh and throw back a couple of gins and make a gorgeous cassoulet or creme brulee or even the simple things, like cooked vegetables.
She was a great woman and a great icon, and she will be sorely missed.