My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme
I think I should probably preface this review with the bald statement that I adore Julia Child. I think there are few things that could diminish my affection for her (although one which came to the fore in reading My Life in France is her apparent love of cats over dogs, which was a sad realization for this canine aficionado, but by no means a deal-breaker), so I can safely say that my reading of My Life in France started affectionately, continued in a rising state of adoration, and ended with my loving Julia Child possibly even more than when I started, which was no mean feat. My Life in France was, quite simply, completely delicious.
For those of you who don’t know, My Life in France is something like Julia Child’s autobiography, although it reads more like a loving discussion of her life’s passions–namely, France, food, and her husband Paul–than like any kind of more formal biography. As the title suggests, it focuses primarily on her years spent in France. The book does not delve deeply into her youth, her college days, or even her time in the OSS prior to meeting Paul Child. Nor does the book spend any time on her post-France celebrity existence as the Grand Dame of French Cooking. Instead, the book focuses on what appears to be Child’s favorite time in her life: the time she spent with her husband in Paris.
What is most remarkable (and wonderful) about My Life in France is Child’s evident enthusiasm and affection for both good food and, as she calls it, la belle France. Everything she writes about, no matter the topic, is infused with her wonderfully girlish enthusiasm for food, described throughout in the loving tone of a mother talking about her children. There is no anecdote too tangential to include a mention of what was eaten and no person too unimportant to discuss the person’s thoughts about France and/or French cuisine. Rather than coming across as a tiresome regurgitation of the Cordon Bleu’s cookbook or making Child look like a one-trip pony, this unstoppable and pure passion for food only makes Child more endearing and the book more interesting.
Additionally, there are few books that I have read in both the travel and food genres that so immediately made me want to take action. So many books one reads about food or travel make you nod with a faint “Ah, doesn’t that sound nice,” but don’t really inspire you to dash to the grocery store in search of the perfect bread or head straight to Travelocity to book your next flight to India. My Life in France made me want to eat cheese, brush up on my “schoolgirl French” (as Julia would call it), experiment with various ways of hand-making mayonnaise, and, most importantly, hop a flight to France immédiatement. The book was absolutely a revelation. Child’s enthusiasm on all fronts in completely infectious, which is truly a great thing.
– A new book coming out about Julia Child’s (previously unpublished, although heavily quoted throughout My Life in France if the teasers are any indication) letters to her friend Avis DeVoto
– The famous SNL sketch featuring Dan Aykroyd as Julia Child. (Julia herself apparently loved the sketch and played it for friends!)
– Menus, biographic information, and a photo gallery from Smith College’s annual Julia Child Day (this link from the ’08 celebrations!)
– And no post about Julia Child would be complete without Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon recipe. Good luck, fellow aspiring chefs.