When I think of Julia Child, I think of the countless Saturday afternoons I spent with my sister watching Cooking with Master Chefs on PBS. I speak honestly when I say that we never had any intentions of cooking her recipes and even thought them too theatrical which is perhaps why we watched transfixed.
I came across My Life in France at my local library and after skimming through just a couple of pages I knew I had to bring it home with me. I couldn’t put it down and needless to say I finished it within a couple of days.
The story is a recollection of the years between 1948 to 1954 when Julia and her husband Paul moved to France after Paul’s government career reassignment. Shortly after their arrival at Le Havre Harbor, Julia had her first French meal at a little restaurant called Restaurant La Couronne, in Rouen. Having grown up on meat and potatoes in Pasadena, CA, eating this new delicately flavored food was a revelation to Julia. As I read her description in the book, I salivated making it evident that even Julia never quite forgot that first taste. And for a person who doesn’t speak any French, the names of the dishes read like poetry to me. Mind you, Julia was ninety-one years old when she began writing this book with Alex. This meal was over four decades ago, but she described the smells and tastes of their multicourse meal, as if only a few hours old.
This meal in essence was the start of the making of an international food icon. Of course, a lot of hard work came in the form of taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu, experimenting and cooking with friends, and most of all the encouragement from her husband Paul. Paul, an artist and photographer himself, was always there to support her interest. Julia credits him for reforming her rather boring and sheltered California upbringing. Beside the serious stuff, they had silly traditions of naming things, and sending homemade valentine cards in lieu of missed Christmas cards, and together making (harmless) fun of their acquaintance. They shared so many of these little personal rituals throughout their life and sharing them in this book makes it as much about Julia’s personal life with Paul than just food.
My Life in France is behind the scene glimpse at the phenomenon that was Julia Child. I was already fond of her from her cooking shoes and now I have even more reasons to love her besides just her cooking. And this time around, I am sure to try one of her dishes.
In other words, go read this now!
Book Title: My Life in France
By Julia Child
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf