Julia Child singlehandedly created a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, but as she reveals in this bestselling memoir, she was not always a master chef. Indeed, when she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Paul, who was to work for the USIS, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever with her newfound passion for cooking and teaching. Julia’s unforgettable story – struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook, a wonderful, nearly fifty-year long marriage that took them across the globe – unfolds with the spirit so key to her success as a chef and a writer, brilliantly capturing one of the most endearing American personalities of the last fifty years. (From Amazon)
I read this partly because of Julie & Julia, but also because I love memoirs written by people who’ve done amazing things. I didn’t grow up watching Julia Child on TV and I barely knew who she was before reading/watching Julie & Julia, but now that I’ve read My Life in France I definitely want to know MORE.
She had such a vivacious personality! It comes out in full force in her book, so much so that I could almost hear her voice as I read about her learning how to cook at the Cordon Bleu or testing a million different variations of the same recipe for her opus, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She was a tough lady who worked hard to accomplish her goals, but the way she tells it, her success was practically accidental. Ha! Nobody who could survive learning to cook with a half dozen salty old military dudes, moving from country to country, writing an entire cookbook basically by hand for what seemed like a million years, and dealing with aggrivating naysayers ever got her success by accident.
According to the foreward, the book was mostly (actually?) written by her grandnephew, Alex Prud’homme, but everything in it comes directly from either Julia herself or from the hundreds of letters she and her husband wrote during their lifetimes. (Also, totally want to read As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto now.) He did a great job at capturing the essence of what makes Julia Child so danged mesmerizing, and the book as a whole is a fascinating read.
My favorite part was, I think, the little real-life bits stuck in with the rest. Of course, the whole THING is actually real-life bits– what I mean is the stuff that wasn’t just about France, food, or cooking. JC was surprisingly political, one of the only liberals in a family of conservatives, and there’s several sections in My Life in France where she talks about how political differences caused rifts between her and her father. She also talks about seeing the moon landing, and other things like that, and it made for a nice break from the foodie stuff.
Finishing My Life in France just made me want to read more about Julia and her life. If you’re interested in learning more about Julia Child yourself, or even if you just like memoirs about people doing neat things, you should definitely check out this book.
Read: April 15-16, 2013