by Julia Child, with Alex Prud’homme, Anchor Books (a division of Random House), 2009 (2nd ed.)
If the movie Julie & Julia (or the book, by Julie Powell) left you obsessed with Julia Child, her memoir My Life in France is your next step in book-stalking the amateur-cook-turned-professional-culinary-icon. Written in collaboration with her grandnephew, this book features the mishaps and “just-try-it-again” attitude that makes her cheese souffle look as easy to make as a grilled cheese sandwich.
In the “Foreward” Prud’homme explains that the book was produced from letters Paul and Julia Child wrote to Paul’s brother, Charles, and from memories Julia recounted to Prud’homme. The result can sometimes feel disjointed, and it’s difficult to follow an exact timeline. The stories, however, are enveloping. The scattered sense of time encourages the feeling that Child is fondly recalling story after story, with more consideration for memories’ associations than for chronology. Appropriately, the common element throughout the vignettes is always a fascination with food– French food, to be exact.
Clips of Child’s cooking shows can be found on YouTube, which will help to cancel out the picture of Meryl Streep (instead of the true subject/author of the book!) on the cover of the re-released edition. Not that Streep did a poor job of portraying Child– in a movie– but for the cover of a book, actually written by the real Julia Child, it would just be more accurate to use a picture of the real person. I would also recommend looking up a picture of Paul Child. The way Julia describes Paul clashed with my impression of the “movie-version” played by Stanley Tucci.
Traveling to France may not be in your plans this summer, but, in the meantime, reading My Life in France can be a decent consolation. Round out the experience with Child’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, courtesy of publisher Knopf Doubleday.