Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Life in France

Julia Child is all a flutter these days. The new Meryl Streep/Amy Adams movie has everyone finally discovering how amazing Julia is after all of these years. Well, I have read the book "Julie and Julia" by Julie Powell and I HATED it. (How often do you hear me say that?) It was not well written, it wasn't interesting, and the author's voice and attitude bugged me. The entire book experience was extremely unpleasant. I won't say more than that because honestly it doesn't deserve the time. (I will see the movie though. Lets just hope that Amy Adams can spice up Julie Powell. Yeek. Fingers crossed for an enjoyable screening on Monday.)

A book I do love, however, is Julia Child’s memoir, “My Life in France,” written with Alex Prudhomme. It is honest-to-goodness one of my very favorite books I've ever read. I LOVE it. And I've obviously been telling all of you about it (you know who you are... Laura. Alison. Katie. Annie. Karen. Emily.) since I picked it up over a year ago but not a single one of you has given it a chance. It's magic, this book.

The book opens with Julia's move to Paris right after the Second World War. Standing 6’2” with red curly hair (hmmm, sound familiar?), she wandered the open-air food markets, cooked in a lovingly described kitchen with big copper pots, an old gas stove, and more butter and cream and aspic than you imagine. To boot, she didn’t learn how to cook until she was 36 which I find immensely inspiring.

Julia met her husband Paul Child in Sri Lanka while working for the U.S. government AS A SPY during the war. He was much older, much shorter, and her perfect companion in every way. Julia and Paul's marriage is a rarity in respect and generosity. They aren't mushy and they aren't obnoxious. They are partners in humor and in grace. I LOVE hearing her speak of their interactions and their life together. We should all be so lucky.

Paul was an artist and a foodie in his own right. He tasted everything Julia cooked, gained a million pounds, and loved every inch of her (all 74.) He created Valentine's cards to send each year in place of Christmas cards which are delightfully included in the book. Very few things make me as happy as looking at these darling Valentine's cards. Especially the one where they are both in the bathtub.

The book is of course about food as well, something that makes us greedily turn the pages. We learn about marrow and about fish markets, and about the PERFECT (and very secret) method of making beurre blanc (This is where Julia's spy training came in handy. Top secret food documents galore.) We can absolutely taste the food--especially that first meal they eat together in France. Oh, its just all so beautiful. In addition, we can also hear Julia's frustration-- her humanism-- dripping through the pages with each recipe she nails and eventually publishes in the great Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Read this memoir. I am so serious, it will change your perspective on who you are and what you can accomplish. Julia proves wholeheartedly that we needn't fit into any box, and is someone who I think of often. In addition, she is hilarious, a character like no other, and one of my true heroes.


jorgensenk said...

Should you ever be interested, my dad has a whole collection of her cooking show on VHS grouped by food category. I enjoyed watching them and seeing her enthusiasm.

La said...

I want to read it now! Send it to me PLEASE.