My Life in France – Julia Child (2006)

Julia Child has to have been one of the most energetic and upbeat people who has ever lived. Being that she is tall and gangly (six foot two inches tall), she really gives her all in living life to the fullest and living her passions. She met and married Paul Child during their service in the OSS, and as his wife, they move around the world (mostly France but there are other postings), and it is there in France that Julia becomes her own person and larger than life.

Her first meal in Paris is described as an epiphany for her and cracks open the door to learning (and becoming an expat expert) on the art of French cooking. She attends and graduates from Le Cordon Bleu (not without difficulty being the only woman among eleven GIs), and then uses that foundation as a spring board to even higher heights of gastronomical cooking.

Working with two French partners with French cooking experience, Julia leads the charge on a huge encyclopedic recipe book (but so much more than that). Julia is obsessive about the ingredients, which ones work best at what point and the science of cooking. Her writing partners are more laidback in this area which is ok at first, but then leads to some issues for all.

And yet this autobiography is so much more than about writing a cookery book (albeit a cookery book that changed how America cooked, so it is said). This is really a paean of adoration to the country of France, its people, its geography, its culture and, bien sur, its food. The Childs travel widely across France to taste different dishes and when Paul retires from the diplomatic corps, they end up building a small home near Provence. What an idealistic place this must have seemed, because from the descriptions, most of their life was cooking and eating (and drinking).

I say that, and then I remember that quite a bit of the book covers the actual writing and publishing process of “The Art of French Cooking”.  It took the collaboration of authors a long time (Seven? Eight years?) to compile and write the info and even then it wasn’t what the original publishers wanted. (It’s puzzling to me that the authors and the pub didn’t communicate during that time to make sure they were both on the same page, topic speaking.) So back to the drawing board for everyone. A long and arduous process, but one that concluded in a classic recipe (and more) book for Americans.

And then there were the TV shows…  (See this link for more of the original shows. )

(And here is the Dan Ackroyd/SNL version for you…

I really enjoyed this read. Julia is/was a good writer and raconteur, and her nephew has done a good job organizing what I’m sure was a lot of mixed-up information into a logical format. The last paragraph in the book really sums up how Julia saw the world:

“In all the years since that [first] succulent meal, I have yet to lose the feelings of wonder and excitement that it inspired in me. I can still almost taste it. And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite – toujours bon appétit!”

Well said, I say.

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