The French meal Julia Child called life-changing

A single meal forever changed Julia Child's life and American kitchens with it. It featured a mild, white-fleshed fish served in a butter sauce.

The legendary American chef stepped on French soil in 1948 for the first time. She was in her late 30s and didn't know how to cook -- at least not yet.

Child and her husband, Paul, stopped for lunch at Restaurant La Couronne ("The Crown") in Rouen, the capital of the northern region of Normandy.

Alex Prud'homme, Child's grandnephew and cowriter of her memoir, "My Life in France," opened the book with this now famous scene.

"Julia is describing the sensation of eating her first bite of real French food and literally falling in love with it at that moment -- without realizing that was the meal that changed her life," he told CNN.

"It was my first French food and I never got over it," Child recalled in archival footage in the new documentary "Julia" from CNN Films that premieres Monday, May 30, at 8 p.m. ET.

This unforgettable lunch inspired Child to dedicate her life to learning and teaching the world the wonders of French cuisine. In the middle of that first bite of sole, she had an epiphany.

The next years of her life were spent in Paris, studying at Le Cordon Bleu and working on a cookbook that became "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

"Julia said (she and Paul) were having so much fun that they could barely catch their breath," Prud'homme said. "She experienced a flowering of the soul."