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Julia Child’s Unconventional Thanksgiving Tradition: The Surprising Dish She Always Served

The Surprising Thing Julia Child Always Served at Thanksgiving

Julia Child, the beloved cookbook author and host of The French Chef, was known for her love of butter, her accessible French cooking, and her joyful approach to the kitchen. While her recipes were often complex and time-consuming, there was one surprising tradition she followed every Thanksgiving. According to an article on, Child would serve Goldfish crackers as an appetizer for her Thanksgiving dinner, along with her signature “reverse martinis.” Let’s take a closer look at this unique Thanksgiving tradition and explore some of Julia Child’s other culinary preferences.

Child’s Unconventional Appetizer

Despite her expertise in French cuisine and her penchant for elaborate dishes like coq au vin and beurre blanc, Julia Child would set aside the fussy recipes for Thanksgiving and opt for a more playful and casual approach. Fast Company reports that she served Goldfish crackers with her “reverse martinis,” which were mostly vermouth with a little less gin than the traditional drink. This combination of a cheesy cracker and a strong drink made for a delightful start to the Thanksgiving feast.

Embracing Tradition and Experimentation

Julia Child was never afraid to experiment, even with Thanksgiving. When she and her husband, Paul, lived in France in the 1950s, they celebrated the holiday with a French twist. Instead of the traditional turkey, they enjoyed oysters and champagne. After returning to the United States, however, Child returned to more traditional Thanksgiving fare, while still infusing her dishes with creativity. She shared recipes for overstuffed turkey sandwiches, rutabaga gratin with garlic and ginger, and even suggested topping vanilla ice cream with a mincemeat-filled fruit sauce.

The Unofficial Thanksgiving Hotline

Child’s passion for cooking extended beyond her own kitchen. In the 1970s and ’80s, when she was at the height of her fame, she kept her home phone number listed in the phone book. As a result, she became an unofficial Thanksgiving hotline for people seeking advice and reassurance about their turkey problems. According to the New York Times, callers would reach out to Child throughout the day, and she would listen patiently and offer words of encouragement. She had a calming presence and reassured callers that their mistakes were nothing to worry about. Child believed that Thanksgiving was a time for relaxation and enjoyment, and she wanted everyone to have a stress-free holiday meal.

Child’s philosophy on cooking and Thanksgiving

Julia Child’s approach to cooking, and Thanksgiving in particular, can be summed up in a quote from the New York Times: “A meal doesn’t have to be like a painting by Raphael, but it should be a serious and beautiful thing, no matter how simple.” She believed that cooking and sharing a meal with loved ones was a way to communicate and connect. Child valued the joy and togetherness that came from gathering around the table, and she encouraged others to embrace the spirit of Thanksgiving, regardless of the specific dishes served.

Honoring Julia Child’s Legacy

As we approach Thanksgiving each year, we can draw inspiration from Julia Child’s unique traditions and philosophy on cooking. Whether it’s incorporating a playful appetizer like Goldfish Crackers, experimenting with new flavors and ingredients, or simply embracing the joy of sharing a meal with loved ones, we can honor Child’s legacy by infusing our own Thanksgiving celebrations with a touch of creativity and a spirit of togetherness.
In conclusion, Julia Child’s surprising choice to serve Goldfish crackers as an appetizer at Thanksgiving demonstrates her playful and unconventional approach to cooking. It reminds us that Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy good food, create new traditions, and cherish the company of loved ones. So this year, as we gather around the table, let’s raise a glass to Julia Child and her legacy of culinary exploration and celebration.


Why did Julia Child choose Goldfish crackers as an appetizer for Thanksgiving?

Julia Child chose Goldfish crackers as a playful and casual appetizer to add a touch of whimsy to her Thanksgiving feast. They complemented her signature “reverse martinis” and provided a fun and lighthearted start to the meal.

Did Julia Child serve Goldfish crackers every Thanksgiving?

Yes, Julia Child made it a tradition to serve Goldfish crackers as an appetizer every Thanksgiving. While she was known for her elaborate French dishes, she embraced simplicity and indulgence on this particular holiday.

Were Goldfish crackers the only unconventional element of Julia Child’s Thanksgiving meals?

No, in addition to serving Goldfish Crackers, Julia Child incorporated other unique elements into her Thanksgiving celebrations. She experimented with different recipes and flavors, adding creativity to her dishes while still honoring the traditional spirit of the holiday.

How did Julia Child handle the flood of calls to her Thanksgiving hotline?

Julia Child warmly embraced her role as the unofficial Thanksgiving hotline operator. She patiently listened to callers and offered reassurance, calming their concerns and encouraging them to relax. Her reassuring presence and expertise made her a trusted source for turkey-related questions.

Did Julia Child ever share her Thanksgiving recipes?

Yes, Julia Child shared several Thanksgiving recipes throughout her career. While she enjoyed experimenting with flavors, she also provided traditional recipes for dishes like turkey sandwiches, rutabaga gratin, and unique dessert sauces. Her recipes combined her love of French cuisine with a touch of American tradition.

How can we honor Julia Child’s legacy in our own Thanksgiving celebrations?

To honor Julia Child’s legacy, we can incorporate elements of creativity, experimentation, and togetherness into our Thanksgiving meals. Whether it’s trying new recipes, adding a sense of playfulness to the appetizers, or simply appreciating the joy of sharing a meal with loved ones, we can pay homage to Julia Child’s unique approach to Thanksgiving.

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