Tuesday, July 05, 2011

There's Just Nobody Like Julia: My Life in France by Julia Child

Back in the 1970s I was on my own and, though I had grown up in a family of excellent cooks and had done a lot of cooking myself, I wanted to do new recipes so I bought Julia Child and Company. I loved the book and I swear that to this day I cook things that are variations on the recipes in that book. So when I came across Julia Child's memoir, My Life in France, I just had to read it. I loved every page of it.


First of all she has a folksy, down-home way of writing that is really just like the way she talked in her cooking shows. She complains about her cranky old father, gossips about her writing partner's difficult personality, gushes over her culinary explorations of Paris, and every page drips with her endless love for her husband Paul. Of course, I have long been of the opinion that I should have been born in Paris – not Paris as it is now but Paris as it was for Hemingway and Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound and now Julia.


Speaking of Hemingway, one of the first friends Julia and Paul Child made when they moved to Paris was Hadley Mowrer, the first Mrs. Ernest Hemingway, and the subject of the wildly popular novel, The Paris Wife. In fact, Julia was the maid of honor at Jack (Bumby) Hemingway's wedding. I loved that and reassured me that, had I been born when and where I was supposed to, I probably would have been at that wedding. Of course, I'd be dead now, too.


But the book is just marvelous. Julia McWilliams grew up in California and during WWII she wanted to join up but at 6'2” she was too tall to be a WAC so she joined the OSS where she met Paul Child who was to become the love her life. After the war they married and he was assigned to a diplomatic bureau in Paris. She went with her husband and soon discovered that the food of Paris was light years from the food of California! Exploring cheese shops and bakeries and produce stands and wine shops she quickly decided that she needed to learn to cook authentic French food and thus enrolled in the Cordon Bleu. Her descriptions of her absolute passion for food and for French cooking fills the rest of the books with added commentary on her travels and then her attempts to publish her first great cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. If anyone thinks publishing is difficult now they need to read this book!


This book is an absolute joy because its author take such joy in so much – food, cooking, Paris, her friends, her husband, and life. The Joy of Julia. She introduces readers to a huge array of fascinating characters and constantly tantalizes the senses with descriptions of the marketplaces, shops, restaurants and kitchens of Paris, the Marseilles, and finally Provence. A wonderful read written by an American treasure with a massive appetite for life. Bon app├ętit, Julia, wherever you are!


Thanks for reading.

3 comments:

  1. Count me in as a glutton to read anything about the Paris of Hemingway, Stein, Julia, et al. One of my favorite books is "A Moveable Feast" Thanks for reminding me of this.

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  2. Consuelo, "A Moveable Feast" is my favorite book of all times. I always say I learned more about writing from that book than all the writing books I ever read.

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  3. I am right in the middle of this book. I am stretching it out bite by tiny bite so it will last a long time.

    I also love reading M.F.K.Fisher's books about her time learning to live and cook in France. Not quite as homey, but just as enthralling as Julia's.

    Oh, and if you haven't seen Midnight in Paris yet, go. It's right up our literary geek Parisian alley.

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