Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Saturday, December 1, 2007

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

I think Julia Child had 2 lives, one as a TV Chef that we all know and love and laughed at the Dan Akroyd impersonation, the other is documented in “My Life in France”.  Of course, there were the 30-some years before this, but you really get the impression that she had not “lived” until she discovered France (and she didn’t start with TV until her late 40’s… maybe I still have hope!).  This book touches on many current events of the 1950’s and 60’s, ranging from McCarthy investigations to space exploration, but mostly how Julia learns to cook (and live) as the French do, and through that, come to realize how limited and narrow thinking much of America (including her parents) had become. 

I loved the writing style used, it was very matter of fact and understated. It was mainly based on letters that Julia and Paul wrote over the years, mostly to Paul’s brother.  The co-author is Julia's nephew, who worked with Julia and finished after her death.  What  treat it must have been for him to learn the history of his family.  Much of the book is about Paul (her husband).  You don't hear much about him, but he introduced Julia to French cooking, and through the years contributed everything from drawings for her books to behind the scenes support for her TV appearances.

Somehow history seems more real when seen from different views.  One character in Life in France, Curnonsky, was a journalist who reviewed some wonderful feasts (and passed himself off as a prince), and at some point was just invited to eat at the best restaurants when ever he wanted, seemed to be one of the eccentric characters from Suite Francoise who seemed to do nothing but eat.

Another link is Julie-Julia Project, not the obvious connection of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One , but the comments on intestinal upsets, not surprising considering the volume of butter, cream and other animal fat consumed!  Of course, Julia make Julie seem like a wimp, Julia spent 10 years and undoubtedly made well over 10x the number of meals that Julie did in 1 year.  The amount of work and detail Julia put into the research and testing of the recipes was phenomenal.  I was also surprised at the difference in basic ingredients between the US and France, such as flour, that she worked to adjust for.   Maybe the more important parallel is that today, Julie Powell changed her life and because a successful writer in a couple of years, something Julia took a decade to do.  Just that’s what they mean by “internet time”.

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