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My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme

By Captain Tuttle | Books | January 19, 2011 |

By Captain Tuttle | Books | January 19, 2011 |

I’ve wanted to read this book for a while, and not just because of Julie and Julia, although that helped. When the movie came out, I heard an interview with Julia Child on NPR, and she was just delightful. Clever, funny, and delightful. I wasn’t ever planning on reading Julie & Julia, because the Julie portion annoys me, but I wanted to know more about Julia Child. She just sounded like someone that I would have enjoyed spending time with. We liked the same things: good food and good wine. And lots of them.

My husband actually met Julia Child once, not long before she died. He was in culinary school in New York. She was visiting, and happened to drop in while he was up to his elbows in leeks. She stood right beside him, and her exact words were: “Keep soldiering on!” There isn’t anyone who has ever met my husband who hasn’t heard that story. Although, if it had been me, I’d do the same thing.

The book was written by Julia Child and her grand-nephew, and is an amalgamation of her memories, correspondence and diaries from the time she arrived in France to just about the end of her life. She arrives in France as a fairly newly-wed, married to a man ten years older than herself. Paul Child was a world-traveller, fluent in French, artistic and sophisticated. They had met during WWII when they worked for the OSS and fell deeply in love. That is one of the things that I love about this book: just how much Paul and Julia enjoyed each other. There are photographs of some of the Valentine’s Day cards they sent out (because they could never get Christmas cards done in time) that show how exactly how adorable they are.

Julia Child loved to tell the story of her first meal in France: sole meuniere. According to her, it was a revelation, and set her on her path for the rest of her life. She was stunned to see that people drank wine with lunch, and had never seen a shallot. If you know anything about Julia Child, you’ve heard about this meal. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. After lunch, Julia and Paul make their way to Paris, where she begins to learn how to cook, and graduates from the Cordon Bleu. She learns French, and the French way of life. She shops at the markets, meets great chefs and restaurateurs, and eventually meets the ladies with whom she begins writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She is honest and unsentimental about how much hard work she put into writing the book.

Julia tells the story of her education and culinary awakening in exactly the same tone and language she used in her television shows and interviews. As I said, delightful. She takes us through the writing of Mastering volumes 1 and 2, and the genesis of her television show. Throughout, she gives us pictures of life in post-war Paris, the ins and outs of publishing and American government service, travelling and living in Provence, and la belle vie in general. I would recommend this book to everyone I know, and to everyone I don’t know. Honestly, read this book.

You can read more of Captain Tuttle’s reviews on her blog, The Land of Sidewalks and Curbs.

Also, if you are interested in cooking/cookbooks, and you missed it when it was posted this weekend, you may want to check out Jelinas’ review of the Top Chef cookbook.