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How Julia Child Celebrated Valentine’s Day

Julia Child is an icon in many regards.

First, she is a hero of Franco-American cuisine, defining the food style for the everyday chef. Second, she helped illustrate how independent and strong women can be by creating a cooking empire while serving as a spy at the same time. Third, she was very publicly in love with her husband, Paul Child, and is a symbol of what adult relationships can be.

That love is all I think about when I think about Julia. Yes, various French foods come to mind when I hear her name but she always comes with her love of Paul. This love also bore a very public love of Valentine’s Day that I’ve been a bit obsessed with.

Primarily, this came in the form of homemade Valentine’s Day cards. The two had a tradition of creating cards for the holiday starring them in adorable poses as a means to capture multiple holiday spirits. “Valentine cards had become a tradition of ours,” Julia once said. “Born of the fact that we could never get ourselves organized in time to send out Christmas cards.”

The cards made their way all around as a surrogate holiday greeting and fell in line as a testament of their love for each other. The Frisky contextualizes this.

Their favorite weekend activity was hopping in the car to traverse the French countryside, with no itinerary except a freshly-packed picnic basket in the backseat. Paul spoke French fluently; Julia took classes. They routinely hosted 5-course dinner parties and showed visiting friends around the city. Every Valentine’s Day, they made it a tradition to pose for a silly, love-dovey photo (seen above) and send it to everyone they knew. Their government jobs made them nomads, but they created a comfortable home and exciting life wherever they went. They lived in boring little towns and cramped urban apartments that reeked of fish. The only constant? Each other. Oh, and laughter! Lots and lots of laughter.

How cute are they? I hope Bobby and I are that cute!

The cards were more than just for funsies too but also became important in many other ways. The cards—among other Child ephemera and texts—helped her nephew create the book My Life In France with her. It also inspired a scene about espionage in the wonderful/terrible film Julie & Julia from 2009. You get to see Meryl Streep carry on as Julia wearing one of them big, adorable Valentine’s hearts!

Another fascinating use of the cards was to prove the couple’s love in light of government blacklisting against gay persons. It was suspected that Paul was same sex oriented and the cards were brought in as evidence of his heterosexuality. USA Today explains.

And Paul would be swept up in what Conant calls “the witch hunt” led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. The FBI would question Paul’s loyalty to the United States, and his sexuality, as a kind of smear.

Paul had nothing to hide, Conant says. The couple offered a pictorial response to the FBI’s questions about “treasonous homosexuality” in their 1956 Valentine’s Day card, posing “gloriously naked,” as Conant puts in, in a bathtub full of soapsuds.

“Gloriously naked.” Fantastic.

If you need a reminder of love this Valentine’s Day, whether that it exists or that you can always be romantic, look to Julia Child and her husband Paul. They are the model of modern love: done on their own, silly terms, without a regard to what other people think. To Julia and Paul!

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