My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme. Random House. Paperback edition 2009.
The Plot: Julia Child's memoir (with great nephew Alex Prud'homme) of how she became, well, Julia Child.
The Good: Having finished Julie & Julia, I had to pick this up to find out more about Julia Child.
OK, now with that over.
Child describes her life in France as a newlywed. Child and her husband, Paul (who met and wooed during World War II) travel to France for Paul's job shortly after their marriage. The Childs' married when Julia was in her mid 30s, Paul ten years older. Oh, to be in post-World War II France. Reading this is not just traveling through someone else's experiences; it is doing so to a time long past. Paris, sixty years ago. I adored all the details of living in France, traveling, and, of course, eating.
In France, Child falls in love first with French food and then with French cooking. Half of the book follows her as she discovers and builds this passion. The second half is about where she takes this -- plans to teach soon grow to writing a cookbook and then cooking on TV. As I mentioned in my review of Julie & Julia, I adore a book about someone who does this in their 30s and 40s and 50s.
Some of the interesting history in the book: Julia and Paul being liberal Democrats AND anti-communist AND anti-McCarthy. Current fiction set during this time period does not usually allow for or show this complexity.
The writing and process of creating Mastering The Art of French Cooking is detailed, in all its complexity. And time! Years and years it took, to write the book, to not just translate French into English but also to take into account American measurements, food (the flour is different!), eating habits.
Child is fascinating, enthusiastic, funny, passionate. On eating: "Our goal was to eat well, but sensibly, as the French did. This meant eating a great variety of foods and avoiding snacks. But the best diet of was Paul's fully patented Belly Control System: "Just don't eat so damn much.""
Julia and Paul's love story is touching and beautiful. She matter of factly addresses how they could not have children, decided not to adopt, but instead to embrace fully the life they had and live it. And wow, did they! How can you not love a couple that sends the following Valentine's Day Card to all their family, friends, and work colleagues: "a self-timed Valentine photo in the bathtub, wearing nothing but artfully placed soap bubbles." At the time, she's in her 40s, he is in his 50s.
By the way? While I love this book and Julia Child, and it makes me hungry, and makes me want to travel to Paris (but traveling to Paris in the 40s/50s may be tough), I'm still not motivated to start cooking Julia Child's French recipes.
Finally, my list of favorite books is for favorite books read in a year regardless of publication date. So yep, this is added to that list.
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
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