In her own words, here is the captivating story of Julia Child's years in France, where she fell in love with French food and found 'her true calling.' From the moment the ship docked in Le Havre in the fall of 1948 and Julia watched the well-muscled stevedores unloading the cargo to the first perfectly soigné meal that she and her husband, Paul, savored in Rouen en route to Paris, where he was to work for the USIS, Julia had an awakening that changed her life. Soon this tall, outspoken gal from Pasadena, California, who didn't speak a word of French and knew nothing about the country, was steeped in the language, chatting with purveyors in the local markets, and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu. After managing to get her degree despite the machinations of the disagreeable directrice of the school, Julia started teaching cooking classes herself, then teamed up with two fellow gourmettes, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, to help them with a book they were trying to write on French cooking for Americans.
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 eminence 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'Universite ("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. Photos. First serial in the New York Times Magazine and Bon Appetit. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Beautifully written!
Posted September 14, 2010 by kimmifb , augustaIf you loved the Julie & Julia movie then you will find this book fascinating. It's all about Julia and Paul in Paris, Julia going to cooking school, meeting all sorts of lively characters including Simca and Juliette, who would become her partners in the joint collaboration of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But it goes on, even after knowing all about the movie, it tells of her trials and tribulations and successes in the MTAFC volume II cookbook, as well as what her friends, her family and her husbnd endure and go through later in life. It's a must read for anyone who enjoyed the movie and wanted more. You'll find that the movie depicted Julia's life quite splendidly, and from reading the book you can even sense Julia's beautifully awkward voice speaking those words. She definitely seemed to have a knack for finding the "silver lining" in even the darkest of her hours in life and it makes one want to be like her, in a way..."silver lining" and all! I haven't been a big enthusiast when it comes to reading books the entire way through, but this story is brilliantly written...romance, successes, failures, tragedies, and with a little dab of Julia's light-hearted humor and wisdom within its pages.
2 . Fantastic
Posted January 25, 2010 by Lauren , OhioJulia Child's memoir reads as if she were telling a series of short stories to a good friend. Her enthusiasm for all things French comes through on every page. The book is sometimes comical, sometimes heartwarming, and always encourages a taste for a good meal. This memoir also weaves in the political perspectives of both Child and her husband who was employed in the USIS following the war.
April 03, 2006
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Excerpt from My Life in France by Julia Child
In August 2004, Julia Child and I sat in her small, lush garden in Montecito, California, talking about her life. She was thin and a bit stooped, but more vigorous than she'd been in weeks. We were in the midst of writing this book together. When I asked her what she remembered about Paris in the 1950s, she recalled that she had learned to cook everything from snails to wild boar at the Cordon Bleu; that marketing in France had taught her the value of les human relations; she lamented that in her day the American housewife had to juggle cooking the soup and boiling the diapers adding, if she mixed the two together, imagine what a lovely combination that would make!
The idea for My Life in France had been gestating since 1969, when her husband, Paul, sifted through hundreds of letters that he and Julia had written his twin brother, Charles Child (my grandfather), from France in 1948 -1954. Paul suggested creating a book from the letters about their favorite, formative years together. But for one reason or another, the book never got written. Paul died in 1994, aged ninety-two.
Yet Julia never gave up on the idea, and would often talk about her intention to write the France book. She saw it, in part, as a tribute to her husband, the man who had swept her off to Paris in the first place.
I was a professional writer, and had long wanted to work on a collaborative project with Julia. But she was self-reliant, and for years had politely resisted the idea. In December 2003, she once again mentioned the France book, in a wistful tone, and I again offered to assist her. She was ninety-one, and her health had been waxing and waning. This time she said, All right, dearie, maybe we should work on it together.
My job was simply to help Julia tell her story, but it wasn't always easy. Though she was a natural performer, she was essentially a private person who didn't like to reveal herself. We started slowly, began to work in sync, and eventually built a wonderfully productive routine. For a few days every month, I'd sit in her living room asking questions, reading from family letters, and listening to her stories. At first I taped our conversations, but when she began to poke my tape recorder with her long fingers, I realized it was distracting her, and took notes instead. The longer we talked about little old France, the more she remembered, often with vivid intensity Ooh, those lovely roasted, buttery French chickens, they were so good and chickeny!
Many of our best conversations took place over a meal, on a car ride, or during a visit to a farmers market. Something would trigger a memory, and she?d suddenly tell me about how she learned to make baguettes in Paris, or bouillabaisse in Marseille, or how to survive a French dinner party. Just speak very loudly and quickly, and state your position with utter conviction, as the French do, and you?ll have a marvelous time!
Almost all of the words in these pages are Julia's or Paul's. But this is not a scholarly work, and at times I have blended their voices. Julia encouraged this approach, pointing out that she and Paul often signed their letters PJ or Pulia, as if they were two halves of one person. I wrote some of the exposition and transitions, and in so doing tried to emulate Julia's idiosyncratic word choices Plop!, "Yuck!, "Woe!, "Hooray! Once I had gathered enough material, I would write up a vignette; she would avidly read it, correct my French, and add things as they occurred to her in small, rightward-slanting handwriting. She loved this process, and was an exacting editor. This book energizes me! she declared.