Thursday, January 28, 2010

Julia Child's Life in France

Yeah, I know, this post lacks a photo of me reading this book while getting ready to sleep, but you should know that this is what I read when I'm trying to ease out of the working day:

My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme.

If you saw the recent film Julie and Julia then you will remember that the movie was based on Julie Powell's memoir and Julia Child's books Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volumes 1 and 2, some portions of The French Chef Cookbook, and this memoir of her life-long love affair with la belle France.

My Life in France *talks* extensively about food and the process of making the monumental Mastering cookbooks, but it is definitely NOT a cookbook itself. Julia here tells the story of how she and her husband Paul Child lived in various places in the US and in Europe, including details of their long French sojourns. They lived in Paris and in Marseilles, and also were posted to places like Germany and Norway, so they definitely had a lot of cosmopolitan European experiences.

What makes this memoir really a cracking good read is Julia Child's writing style: very intimate and personal, and full of idiosyncrasies. She has a wonderfully descriptive habit of dropping in interjections and onomatopoeia like "Woe!" and "Hm." and even "Groowwwwllll!" - very like modern uses of English! Bear in mind that the letters and correspondence that the book was based on dates from the late 1940s. Clearly Julia was ahead of her time, both in terms of food and of language.

[Ironically, there is a point in the book where Julia claims a purchase of an edition of Webster's dictionary led her and Paul to scream at each other over their differing points of view with regards to language. She railed against its prostitution; he was an advocate of its steady evolution over time.

I'm with Julia, incidentally.]

There is, of course, a massive amount of French dropped here and there throughout the pages of the book. There is a mention of the poussiequette [say that out loud: domestic house cat], and even some moaning about le cafard [the blues].

And there are lots of names for French dishes: civet [stew, usually of rabbit], baguette [the famous loaves of French bread], cassoulet [a hearty dish of beans and meat], bouillabaisse [the famous fish and seafood meal with soup].

[I am writing this entry before lunchtime and I am now RAVENOUS dammit. XD]

Julia Child's beautiful kitchen, donated to the Smithsonian Museum and now an exhibit there.

The book is a very interesting look into the life and times of a rather larger-than-life personality, someone who's become en vogue again with the release of books and movies about her, someone who may well be considered one of the patron saints in the rise of the global foodie culture. But for me, Julia Child remains always an inspiration, not just at the stove but also for nearly EVERYTHING in life.

After a long day at work and a few hours working on all sorts of odds and ends of crafting and crochet - I mean, I'm nervous, I'm going to be teaching someone how to crochet over the weekend and I need to be adequately prepared or my "student" will kick my ass - this is how I like to relax: dreaming about food I cannot have, and longing to visit far-off places.

Well, I always said I lived a complicated life....

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