A biography of Julia Child from the award-winning author of Perfection Salad
One of the most beloved figures in 20th century American culture was Julia Child, the bouyant "French Chef" who taught millions of Americans to cook with confidence and eat with pleasure. With an irrepressible sense of humor and a passion for good food, Child ushered in the nation's culinary renaissance and became its chief icon. Unlike the great cooking teachers who preceded her, she won her audience through the revolutionary medium of television. Millions watched as she spun threads of caramel, befriended a giant monkfish, wielded live lobsters, flipped omelets and unmolded spectacular desserts. Her occasional disasters, and brilliant recoveries, were legendary. Yet every step of the way she was teaching carefully crafted lessons about ingredients, culinary technique, and why good home cooking still matters.
Award-winning food writer Laura Shapiro describes Child's unlikely career path, from California party girl to cool-headed chief clerk in a World War II spy station to bumbling amateur cook and finally to the classes at the Cordon Bleu in Paris that changed her life. Her marriage to Paul Child was at the center of all her work. Unlike much of what has been written about Child, Shapiro portrays a woman who was quintessentially American, and whose open-hearted approach to the kitchen was a lesson in how to live.
Shapiro's biography of Julia Child--one of America's most beloved personalities--is a short but comprehensive book, and the newest in the Penguin Lives series. Born Julia McWilliams in Pasadena, Calif., in 1912, Child attended college and worked for the OSS in Asia during WWII, where she met her future husband. After marrying, they moved to Paris, which led her to cooking classes at the Cordon Bleu. Child had an appetite for learning as well as eating, one that soon developed into a desire to pass on the knowledge and skills--the love--she was acquiring. And in her late 30s, she found her calling. With two women who later coauthored her first book, she started her own cooking school; her class notes led to the cookbook, which eventually led to the television show. Her husband provided steady support, and Child learned of the value of trial and error and an ability to laugh at her mistakes. She was also patient: the cookbook was nearly a decade from conception to publication and the television show started equally shakily. In this wonderful short bio, Shapiro doesn't skimp on less-flattering aspects of her subject's life and personality (Child found homosexuality to be "a rude disruption in the natural order of things"). (Apr.)
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April 04, 2007
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