Julia Child: A World Famous French Chef used to be an agent for a Spy Agency?

She helped cook up Shark Repellant

Julia Child, known for her skills in French cooking and for her world-famous cookbook – Master the Art of French Cooking isn’t just the maker of delicious French omelettes. 

In a special archive release, the CIA has revealed details of the work done by Julia for the spy agency OSS during World War II. OSS is a precursor to CIA which was in charge of covert spy operations during World War II. Julia McWilliams aka Julia Child enrolled in the OSS in 1942. The same year OSS formed Emergency Rescue Equipment (ERE) coordinating committee to develop devices that helped rescue members of the military and equipment from dangerous situations.

One of the projects that she collaborated with was the development of a shark repellant to protect Navy men and equipment stranded in shark-infested waters. According to Julia, “We couldn’t get the Navy to admit that sharks ate Navy men. They didn’t like to say, ‘Dear Mrs. So-and-So, your son was eaten by a shark.’ They’d much rather say: ‘Your gallant son was lost at sea.’ Then one day, a shark was caught and they opened him up and found he had some undigested parts of people in his stomach. One of them still had fingerprints, and it turned out to be a Navy man. There was such glee in our office that they had finally proven a Navy man could be eaten by a shark.”

According to recovered memos the ERE tested more than 100 substances including “extracts from decayed shark meat, organic acids, and several copper salts, including copper sulphate, and copper acetate.” The winning recipe was copper acetate mixed with dye, which when strapped to a life jacket, belt, leg, or a piece of equipment mimicked the smell of a dead shark and deterred them for up to seven hours. Soon, this recipe was adopted by other branches including NASA to protect their downed space equipment. 

According to The Christian Science Monitor, citing Examiner.com, Child once told her producer Margaret Sullivan, “I could boil water for tea but my first big recipe was shark repellent that I mixed in a bathtub for the Navy, for the men who might get caught in the water.”

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