Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Julia Child's Life in France

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you know that I am an avid baker. Its how I celebrate. How I relieve stress or boredom. How I make myself feel better on a bad day. I give baked goods to people I love to let them know I care about them. I even bake for my ballet classes during the holiday season. Now when Thanksgiving hits they all ask if I'm baking for them for Christmas again!!!

So I thought I would share my food icon with you. I LOVE me some Julia Child!!!!!!!!

I mean LOVE!!

If you love to cook or bake and haven't read this book you should. 

As you can see, my copy is a little worn. I've read it 3 times already!

"My Life in France" is an autobiography that was published in 2006, 2 years after Julia Child's death. The book begins right after WWII, during which Julia played her part to help the war effort by joining the Office of Strategic Services (alas, she was too tall to join the WAC, which is what she really wanted). During that time she was a typist and was eventually promoted to a top secret researcher for the head of the OSS. From there she went on to become a file clerk for shark repellent of all things ( the repellent was used to keep sharks away from weapons that were used against German ships). From there she was transferred to Kandy, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and there she met Paul Child,  the man who would soon become her husband.

After marrying in 1946 the couple lived in Pennsylvania and later moved to Washington D.C. The couple eventually moved to Paris, France when Paul was transferred there by his employer with the U.S. State Department. 

This is where the book picks up.

When they arrived in France, Julia spoke absolutely no French and didn't know very much about the country or the culture. The first few chapters are about Julia's first impressions of France. It details people she initially meets and her introduction to cooking school! Which by the way she started just because she was bored. Paul was always busy with work so to keep herself busy she enrolled herself in L'Ecole le Cordon Bleu. The first class she went to was for housewives. You know, the typical 1950's newlywed cooking course. She HATED it. She wanted to learn to COOK. So she persuades the director to let her enroll in a real cooking course with aspiring professional chefs. 

If you have seen the delightful movie "Julie and Julia" starring Meryl Streep, then you have seen this part of the book. 

She struggles at first but eventually excels and passes the exam at Le Cordon Bleu.  From there she meets Simone Beck and Louisetta Bertholle and together they go on to form L'Ecole de Trois Gourmandes, a cooking school showcasing french food and techniques.  They mostly taught American women who wanted to learn the french style of cooking. 

Eventually the three decide to write a cookbook that goes on to become the famous "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Later, the three part ways and Julia and Paul move back to the US and she begins her cooking show "The French Chef". The book ends on a sad note with Paul's declining health which eventually leads to the closing of Julia and Paul's French hideaway cabin, La Pitchoune (meaning "the little one")  in France. It is both a literal closing and a symbolic one. 

In the book Julia Child describes Paris in the most delectable way. All the while making your mouth water with her descriptions of the food. You can tell it really is a love song to Paris and French cooking.  She and Paul lived a most fascinating life including Paul being interrogated when he was suspected of Communist activities!! It really is a great read. You get to learn a lot about Post War France and the foods that inspired Child's television series and books. The book details some her most famous recipes including Beouf Bourguignon. She did a great job being through and detailing her fun life in Paris. 

When I was little I used to love to watch PBS with my mom. One of the things we would watch was "Julia Child's Kitchen". She would make cooking and baking look like so much fun. She gave you the feeling that anyone who really wanted to could learn to cook a decent meal and bake a decent cake. She would make mistakes on air and show you how to fix them. She was a genius at teaching people to prepare meals. Her love for food was unmistakable.

So on that note I think I'll go bake some toffee bars and lounge around watching cooking shows.

OH! I'll leave you with a few Juila-isms... 

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook."
"If you're afraid of butter...use cream."
“You'll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.”
“Everything in moderation... including moderation.”  
“Remember, 'No one's more important than people'! In other words, friendship is the most important thing--not career or housework, or one's fatigue--and it needs to be tended and nurtured.”

Here, here, Julia... Here, here!!!


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  1. I love Julia!!! I once saw her in a hotel in Santa Barbara a few years before she died. I almost fainted, I was so excited. I didn't get up the courage to talk to her but people who live in Santa Barbara said that she was very nice and would often invite the UCSB French class over for lunch! Can you imagine?? Magnifique!

  2. This post was a such a joy! I've long admired Julia on so many levels and thoroughly enjoy experimenting with her recipes, too. I've always thought that if I was hosting one of those imaginary dinner parties people sometimes talk about in which you get to seat any guests you'd like around the table, Julia would be on the guest list for sure (I wouldn't put her to work in the kitchen though - unless she wanted to :)).

    ♥ Jessica

  3. What a great post! I have seen the movie, but never actually saw her TV shows. What really comes across is that she had a fantastic relationship with her husband, and a real zest for life! Oh and I love her suggestion of replacing butter with cream! :)

  4. Very interesting post! I saw the movie...great quotes!

  5. I have always wanted to try her Mastering French Cooking recipes. Have you tried any of them?


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