At food conferences, you could always count on her being in the front row taking notes. And she fretted over her work as much as any first-time author. I remember being at her table at a book awards dinner when "Julia and Jacques," her terrific work with friend Jacques Pepin, was passed over for book of the year.
I know from hard experience that losing awards competitions is a gut-churning business. But I do take some comfort in the fact that it was obviously just as hard for Julia Child as it has been for me.
Still, I think there was more to Julia's reaction to the blog than simple professional pride. Another possible objection could have been that even though Julia wore her icon status lightly, she protected it vigilantly. She never allowed her name to be used to promote a commercial product.
In the case of the Julie/Julia blog, the line between affectionate hommage and commercial piggybacking is hazy and probably depends on which side of it you find yourself.
But even more to the point is a deeper matter of character. While I don't think Julia was at all put off by Julie Powell's character's constant drinking and swearing, I do think her constant complaining was part of what Julia perceived as a lack of seriousness.
Nora Ephron captures this quite delicately in the movie, juxtaposing two key scenes. When Powell learns that Julia doesn't think much of her blog, she collapses in a sodden heap, wailing, "Julia hates me!"
Compare that with Julia's reaction when she gets the letter informing her that her prospective publisher has decided not to go ahead with her book, something she has spent almost a decade perfecting.
"Eight years of my life. It just turned out to be something to do, so I wouldn't have nothing to do," she says, obviously heartbroken. "Oh, well. Boo-hoo. Now what?"
Julia Child was part of the generation that had seen Depression and war. She had known bad times, and she believed that the only way to meet them was head-on. You picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and got on your way.
The first time we visited her at the assisted living center in Montecito, my wife commented on her apartment, and Julia replied matter-of-factly, "Yes, it's a nice little pad. But it's the kind of place they take you out feet first."
I don't think she could begin to know what to think about the blogging generation, where a beef stew can result in 800 words of anguish.
Come to think of it -- just pipe-dreaming here -- wouldn't it be great if in addition to absorbing Julia's love of food and zest for life, a few moviegoers picked up on a little of that character as well?