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Julia Child’s early recipe: Shark repellent

Staff reports

Chef Julia Child worked for the Office of Strategic Services, a U.S. intelligence agency formed during World War II, when it created a shark-repellent recipe.
Chef Julia Child worked for the Office of Strategic Services, a U.S. intelligence agency formed during World War II, when it created a shark-repellent recipe. AP

To mark Shark Week, the CIA – of all places – has been sharing some shark intelligence in a series of lighthearted tweets.

Shark Week comes amid a surge in shark bites on the North Carolina coast. A 32-year-old Marine was the eighth victim of a reported shark bite over the weekend.

Among the facts in the CIA tweets: Chef Julia Child worked for the Office of Strategic Services, a U.S. intelligence agency formed during World War II, when it created a shark-repellent recipe.

Child, then known by her maiden name, Julia McWilliams, joined the OSS in 1942, according to the CIA.

“This was years before she became the culinary icon of French cuisine that she is known for today,” the CIA wrote. “In fact, at this time, Julia was self-admittedly a disaster in the kitchen.”

Child worked for the Emergency Rescue Equipment in OSS as an executive assistant. The unit was involved in creating a shark repellent after at least 20 Navy officers had been attacked by sharks since the start of World War II.

According to the CIA, “Researches in the unit found several promising possibilities: extracts from decayed shark meat, organic acids, and several copper salts, including copper sulphate and copper acetate. After a year of field tests, the most effective repellent was copper acetate.”

“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,” said Child to her producer Margaret Sullivan, according to The Christian Science Monitor, citing Examiner.com.

Requests for the repellent came from the Army and Coast Guard, according to the CIA.

The Navy also issued a training manual in 1944 called “Shark Sense” to dispel myths about shark attacks.

Among its advice: “People suffer more from shark fright than from shark bite.”

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