Throughout her career, Julia Child encouraged Americans to enjoy the pleasures of cooking and sharing good food. She cared deeply about teaching the fundamentals of cooking, and hoped to inspire Americans to conquer their fear of complex cookery. Her intended audience was always the American home cook, for whom she wrote clear and detailed instructions for each step of a recipe, no matter how complicated. She believed that anyone could learn to do what she had learned herself: to master the basic technique, the fundamentals, of cooking, and apply them to a whole universe of culinary delights.
Julia also believed that American cooks should be able to prepare sophisticated food in their home kitchens using readily available equipment and ingredients. Before publication of both volumes of Mastering, she and friends across the United States tested the recipes over and over again, using ingredients and tools they could purchase locally.
When the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961, there were only a few cookbooks that had achieved a wide following among American cooks. Various editions of Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book (1896) and Irma S. Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking (1931) were two standards in many American kitchens. Still, cookbooks represented a small segment of the American publishing business. Publishers were content to produce books that fit a general pattern, presuming that readers had some knowledge about food and cooking, and that they were not interested in anything too complicated, fancy, or foreign.