NEW YORK - Julia Child, whose warbling, encouraging voice and able hands brought the intricacies of French cuisine to American home cooks through her television series and books, died in her sleep three days before what would have been her 92nd birthday.
"America has lost a true national treasure," Nicholas Latimer, director of publicity for Alfred A. Knopf publishing, said in a statement Friday. "She will be missed terribly."
The statement said she died Thursday at her home in Santa Barbara, Calif. The cause of death was not given.
A 6-foot-2 American folk hero, "The French Chef" was known to her public as Julia, and preached a delight not only in good food but in sharing it, ending her landmark public television lessons at a set table and with the wish, "Bon appetit."
"Dining with one's friends and beloved family is certainly one of life's primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal," she said in the introduction to her seventh book, "The Way to Cook." "In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal."
Chipper and unpretentious, she beckoned everyone to give good food a try. She wasn't always tidy in the kitchen, and just like the rest of us, she sometimes dropped things or had trouble getting a cake out of its mold.
In an A-line skirt and blouse, and an apron with a dish towel tucked into the waist, Julia Child grew familiar enough to be parodied by Dan Aykroyd on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and the subject of Jean Stapleton's musical revue, "Bon Appetit." She was on the cover of Time magazine in 1966.
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