Francois Pope: Mastering the Art of French Cooking Before Julia Child

Updated Sep 12, 2023

We watched Julie and Julia at a matinee yesterday with all the other old farts in my community. Meryl Streep did a bang up job as Julia Child, who was thrust into the world of French cooking by her frustration with the lack of French cookbooks written in English.

Afterwords my mother and I talked about the movie. We both watched Julia Child on television, of course. But she wasn’t a big influence on our cooking sensibilities. Francois Pope was.

My mother liked the recipes in her “Pope” so much that she used to make, on a regular basis, eclairs in the shape of swans. They were a big hit in our Chicago suburb. The neighbor ladies loved them.

So when it came time to surprise my mother and father for their anniversary, I thought I’d throw together a little Duck a l’Orange from “the” cookbook. It was ready for them when they returned from church.

It turns out that the Pope thing was a local Chicago deal, which is why folks don’t know as much about it as we did. The Chicago Trib says:

We love Julia Child—her wit, her joie de vivre, her chocolate mousse—and enjoy all the stories and hoopla over the movie, “Julie & Julia.” But we admit that Antoinette and Francois Pope hold a special place in our culinary hearts. Pope-cook They taught generations of Chicagoans how to cook at their schools that began in 1930—a 1938 ad in the Chicago Tribune for “Antoinette Pope’s Schools of Fancy Cookery” offered lessons for $1—and through their cookbooks, the first of which appeared in 1948.

Not to mention that the Popes had a television cooking show, “Creative Cookery” that ran from 1951 to 1963, over a decade before Julia Child’s program.

Mom is gonna send me her “Pope”. Maybe I’ll try the duck again.

Read: Before Julia Child, there was Antoinette Pope

In the Epi-Log, Esther Sung asks Antoinette and Francois Pope: Do You Know Them?. Family members reply. It’s quite interesting if you have any memory at all of the Popes.