Jan 2008

My Life in France – Julia Child

About: With Julia Child’s death in 2004 at age 91, her grandnephew Prud’homme (The Cell Game) completed this playful memoir of the famous chef’s first, formative sojourn in France with her new husband, Paul Child, in 1949. The couple met during WWII in Ceylon, working for the OSS, and soon after moved to Paris, where Paul worked for the U.S. Information Service. Child describes herself as a “rather loud and unserious Californian,” 36, six-foot-two and without a word of French, while Paul was 10 years older, an urbane, well-traveled Bostonian. Startled to find the French amenable and the food delicious, Child enrolled at the Cordon Bleu and toiled with increasing zeal under the rigorous tutelage of éminence grise Chef Bugnard. “Jackdaw Julie,” as Paul called her, collected every manner of culinary tool and perfected the recipes in her little kitchen on rue de l’Université (“Roo de Loo”). She went on to start an informal school with sister gourmandes Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, who were already at work on a French cookbook for American readers, although it took Child’s know-how to transform the tome—after nine years, many title changes and three publishers—into the bestselling Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). This is a valuable record of gorgeous meals in bygone Parisian restaurants, and the secret arts of a culinary genius – Publishers Weekly

My thoughts: Other than recognizing her name, I knew little else about Julia Child before delving into My Life in France, which was a Christmas gift from The Astronomer’s mother Jane. Prior to moving to Saigon, I was obsessed with books about food—systems, memoirs, cookbooks, etc., but have been deprived of delicious writing as of late. This book rekindled my love for the genre and piqued my interest in France and its cuisine.

I took away a couple of things from My Life in France. First, writing a comprehensive cookbook on French cuisine is incredibly difficult. I can’t believe she tested recipes 50+ times! Second, life can be fulfilling without having kids. Third, living abroad/total cultural immersion is a beautiful thing. Fourth, it’s never too late to find a true calling or passion. Fifth, make time for those you love and travel to see them often. Sixth, copper bowls are superior for whipping cream.

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