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My Life in France

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The bestselling story of Julia's years in France--and the basis for Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams--in her own words.
Although she would later singlehandedly create a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, Julia Child was not always a master chef. Indeed, when she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Paul, who was to work for the USIS, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever with her newfound passion for cooking and teaching. Julia's unforgettable story--struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook, a wonderful, nearly fifty-year long marriage that took the Childs across the globe--unfolds with the spirit so key to Julia's success as a chef and a writer, brilliantly capturing one of America's most endearing personalities.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2006

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About the author

Julia Child

91 books704 followers
Julia Child was a famous American cook, author, and television personality who introduced French cuisine and cooking techniques to the American mainstream through her many cookbooks and television programs. Her most famous works are the 1961 cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and, showcasing her sui generis television persona, the series The French Chef, which premiered in 1963.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,055 reviews
Profile Image for Kelly.
878 reviews4,021 followers
June 29, 2011
I did not grow up on Julia Child. I’m too young to have watched her TV show, and my mom wasn’t the type to own any of her cookbooks (we stuck to mostly Italian recipes handed down from my dad’s mom and ranch-style cooking- or, if we were unlucky, my British nanny’s “traditional” English dishes she insisted we try). I barely knew who she was before I started cooking a few years ago. I admit that I wasn’t really interested in her until the recent movie Julie and Julia, which definitely made me want to know more. What can I say? Meryl Streep’s powers are infinite.

I say this just so you’re aware that I don’t have any childhood memories that mean that this book is illuminated in a shiny, impenetrable blanket of nostalgia (not that there is anything wrong with those blankets. I have them for other things! Just not for this). Nonetheless, I really liked this book. I don’t want to overstate this. The book is what it says it is, and you should sign up for it because you would like to read about what Julia Child did in France, what came of her trip in France, the writing of French cookbooks, and how she got started as The French Chef. There is food, and a lot of it. Everything from incredibly detailed memories of menus she ate or cooked for people in France in 1950, to explanations of her experiments with translating French foods to the American market to the trials and tribulations of publishing her cookbook. So far, so expected. And, frankly, so good. She is excellent at describing a sense memory of taste so that even if you’re not quite sure what a dish is, you’re very sure that you want to eat it.

The unexpected part, which I loved, was Julia’s personal transformation. I don’t necessarily mean the inspirational tale of finding happiness in going native in a foreign country that inspired a thousand imitators of the Under the Tuscan Sun variety. I meant the other side of the story, her prickly growth as a person. The way these stories are told (and it should be noted that they are written by her great-nephew, though with her approval), her very distinctive voice seems to express not only the sort of warmth and charm that drew people to her, but also the other woman hiding behind that. I really identified with that other woman that she seemed embarrassed to talk about too much. She was the girl who was smart and restless enough to long for more than the slot that life had lined up for her (housewife in unthinking Republican Pasadena), but, so it seemed, with a self-esteem low enough that she didn’t think herself as smart as the artsy, literate people that she longed to be around (like her husband). I could relate to that- I've been that girl. Forever in-between in your own mind, not good enough for what you want, but knowing you need more than what would be acceptable. It was fascinating to hear her talk about politics of the time period (and this was a surprisingly political book), whether French or American- and then stop herself with one of her patented sweet exclamations (“Phooey!”, “Whew!”)- as if she was suddenly self-conscious of talking about something that she was not an expert about and didn’t want people to think she was getting above herself or something. She was extremely self-aware about her limits, too. There was a wonderful passage from when she was about 40 or so when she was arguing with a man of conservative opinions when she realized that she had “emotions instead of opinions,” which was why she couldn’t express herself very well. She didn’t come out and say it, but it seemed implied that she was still a young girl rebelling emotionally against her Republican father- which had seemed to her sufficient opinion until that point. She immediately resolved to educate herself and read, with Paul, a wide assortment of French and American newspapers. How many people are willing to admit that kind of ignorance and take on such a deep project of self-improvement at that age? In my experience, that seems to be about the time where people start to get set in their ways and are all, “Oh well, too late not to suck at life now!”

Once she had found her new passion, she also became the most amazingly hard worker. She spent months perfecting a mayonnaise recipe that no one had ever written down, and then had to find a way to translate it to an American market that has ingredients that make for a completely different chemistry. She was the first person to write down a recipe for French bread in English, and it took her over 200 pounds of flour to get it right. She wrote to scientists who worked with Hershey’s to get a demonstration of the chemical reactions of chocolate. It was the most amazing thing- like she finally found a little niche that she could make herself have enough self-confidence to succeed in, despite her doubts, and suddenly we find out that she’s probably way smarter than the people she’s been writing about in awe the entire book, whether chefs or otherwise. She eats this amazing meal when she first arrives in France that starts her on this journey towards her ultimate career as a French chef, and about halfway through the book (and twenty years later), she goes out to a restaurant and has another amazing meal- but instead of reacting in awe and worshiping the magic of the French character, she guesses, accurately, everything that is in the dish and goes home and reproduces it almost exactly, and it is just as good as the lady in her restaurant who has been making this dish since the dawn of time. The way she talks about her obsession with these details of why food works is still almost…defensive, like she had to explain it to someone a half-century later, when she's been proven right about having done it over and over again. It’s so true- once the insecure girl who is too tall, too smart, too something- always that girl, successful or not.

Ultimately, you love her because she always brings things back to this place of happiness and, “oh well, the show must go on!” no matter what- but the way she told the stories and negotiated herself to that place was very realistic. This was not an unrelenting “always look on the bright side of life,” montage. There were difficult people in her life, difficult spots in her marriage, difficult moments in her career- the fact that she still remembers verbatim quotes and fights from forty years earlier is telling- and she’s clear about it when she doesn’t like something or someone and why. She doesn’t have an American sense of everything will turn out all right in the end, but rather this very French tant pis acceptance that shit happens and life is shit and oh well, wade through it like a big girl. She doesn’t try to deny anything or erase it or obsess about appearing perfect when she wasn’t- which is something I find irritating about American self-help books and TV fantasies. Her philosophy about serving your food even if it comes out bad and not apologizing for is sort of the epitome of this rejection of the hide your dirty laundry ideals of the mid-century. She’s perfectly frank about her fights with Paul Child, her problems with her co-authors on the book, her difficulties with her Republican father, her failures in the kitchen and on her TV show. It isn’t in the exhibitionist way that you see so often these days either. She’s a good girl, but she won’t let herself be walked all over- she is going to have her say and that’s just fair. I don’t know if I am doing a very good job describing this voice, but believe me when I say that it is as captivating in print as it is on television.

All in all, a surprisingly down to earth book from a classy lady who was much more complicated than I thought she was. Come for the food, stay for the voice of the woman telling you about it- and don’t let her talk herself down! She’s worth the price of admission and more.
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.4k followers
July 28, 2022
It seems like there are probably 817 films, books, tv shows, and documentaries about Julia Child.

And that is completely appropriate, because she is the best.

Even if you have consumed all 817 pieces of aforementioned content, and even if you have made the boeuf bourguignon and watched Amy Adams make the boeuf bourguignon and mimicked the way she says "it's not just any BOUEF BOURGUIGNON, it's Julia Child's BOUEF BOURGUIGNON," all of which I recommend, you should still read this book.

It's one of the greatest memoirs I think I've read! Funny, interesting, entertaining and also educational. Extremely yummy, and sometimes gross. And above all perfectly in that effervescent Julia Child voice.

So fun.

Bottom line: Julia Child!!!!

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Profile Image for Melissa.
403 reviews71 followers
August 28, 2015
Oh, how I love and adore this book. It's one of the best I've read lately, combining as it does my love of France, Julia, and food in one funny, touching package. Julia Child was such a unique, eccentric, brilliant woman, and I'm always inspired when I realize that she struggled along at loose ends for years before finding her true passion and calling.

Her marriage to Paul Child is beautifully portrayed in the book. He was quite a worldly, erudite man, and very forward-thinking for his time in the way he nurtured and supported Julia's talent and career. He was very much a driving force behind her success, but he always made sure she was the one who got to shine. They lived a fascinating life even before her career began, however, living all over the world while Paul was a government official. WWII Asia, post-war Europe, the McCarthy witch hunt -- there's a lot more than just cooking stories in the book.

The cooking stories are great, however. I loved her description of her seminal first meal in France, the one that began her obsession with French cuisine. She really does credit that one meal with being the start of everything that was to follow, from her training at the Cordon Bleu, to the formation of L'Ecole des Trois Gourmandes with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, to the three of them setting about writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The amount of work that they, Julia especially, put into researching and writing the cookbook is another inspiration. The woman was not averse to hard work, that's for sure.

I really can't say enough about My Life in France. I absolutely loved reading it, and it made me adore Julia even more than before. She really was a treasure.
May 6, 2015
I didn't know anything about Julia Child apart from having heard her name and that she was 6' tall until the book Julie and Julia. I read that and whereas I didn't think much of Julie at all (I think she should go back to blogging, a book's a bit much for her) I was curious about Julia.

The book is beautifully written by her nephew Paul Prud'homme and illustrated with many photographs from her talented ex-diplomat husband Paul. Its a lovely story of a life through cooking and inspired by France and full of surprises that you wouldn't expect for someone of her monied, patrician background.

One one of the Goodreads groups I belong to, where everyone besides me is American and, it seems strongly Republican, the book Julie and Julia got many negative comments owing to Julie's total disrespect of Republicans and not being respectful enough of the construction of a memorial to 9-ll (I didn't feel that, I thought she was just pissed off with her job, but I'm not an American and there may have been nuances I missed). Needless to say, I don't think that group would enjoy My Life in France either - Julia Child is fiercely anti-Republican and critical of many aspects of American politics which she sees as hypocritical. This causes if not a rift in the family, then her father's coldness and uninterest in her life and husband, as he saw anything less than full enthusiasm for all things Republican (and racist, anti-academic, anti-semitic and xenophobic) to be a betrayal by her of his and his friends' lives and the cultural millieu he had brought her up in. Julia's politics were important to her and she studied assidiously so that she could hold up her end in dinner-table debates with her more knowledgeable friends, often over one of her wonderfully-cooked meals.

The story of how she learned to cook and the various places she and Paul lived in, is beautifully told without either undue self-praise or false modesty. She had a lovely personality, a burning drive to educate people as to how good food (French food) could be and why it was worth the time and effort to make it, and attracted a rich variety of friends whose only link seemed to be they really, really liked food. But it was just as interesting viewing American politics and France through the half century of her life from the 50s until her death five years ago in 2004.

I'm so enthusiastic about reading Julia Child that I've ordered Mastering French Cooking, a huge and expensive tome, and I don't cook, not ever, but I do want to read it.

Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,890 reviews1,920 followers
March 21, 2017
Rating: 3.875* of five

The Book Report: Truth in advertising had no greater champion than Julia Child. Her book is called exactly and precisely what it is: The narrative of her life in France. She begins her book on November 3, 1948, with the Child family landing at Le Havre, getting into their gigantic Buick station wagon, and motoring off across northern France towards Paris. They stop at thirty-six-year-old native Californian Mrs. Child's first French restaurant, La Couronne, where her husband Paul (already fluent in French from his first stint living there more than 20 years before) consults with M. Dorin, the maitre d', and decides the young marrieds (relatively speaking, as he's 46 by then) will have a sole meuniere with a glass of wine! I mean! A nice Republican-raised gal from Pasadena, California, drinking wine with lunch! Who heard of this?! Mais certainement not Mme. Child, nee McWilliams!

It was the beginning of a life-long love affair between Julia Child and la belle France, and Julia Child and la cuisine Francaise. It led to several books, several TV series, and a long, happy life spent teaching, teaching, teaching. Mme. Child had found her metier, at close to forty, in a day and time where living past sixty-five was ** considered to be ancient. In the process, the person she became changed the American, and possibly the world as a result, culture surrounding food. Yet Julia Child wrote this book with her husband's great-nephew Alex Prud'homme, who tells us in his brief Foreword that getting his garrulous old relative to open up about the feelings and secrets that make up the majority of any human life. His degree of success was formidable, given the generational and gender-induced reticence he fought against to extract the juicy bits from her.

Bravo, M. Prud'homme, et merci bien par tout le faire.

My Review: Julia Child was a fixture around our house when I was young. I got the TV-watching habits I carry with me to this good day at a tender age, and part of the formative process was The French Chef. My mother didn't like Mrs. Child much. She was a fan of M.F.K. Fisher's food work, which wasn't in sympathy with Mrs. Child's careful and precise measuring and nice and accurate timing. Mama was a feast-maker, not a dinner-preparer, and that's why she watched Julia Child programs.

I learned about enthusiastic appreciation of food from my mother and Mrs. Child. I was never a picky eater, and only rejected a few foods. (I still hate corn on the cob.) It always seemed like the ladies were having so much fun making these weird dishes! It made sense to me that it would be fun to eat them, and so it proved to be.

In reading this memoir, I immersed myself in the flow of Child's later-life awakening to the joy of food and the sheer exhilaration of preparing special and delicious and carefully thought-out meals for one's loved ones. While I understand the co-author's challenge in balancing the need to afford the famous personality privacy against the buying public's desire to know the dirt, I can only lament that Prud'homme either didn't or couldn't press Child on the topic of her childlessness. I suspect burying herself in research and in obsessive experimentation was a means of assuaging her sadness at not being a mother. She was, or at least she is painted in this book as being, a very nurturing person, and given the prevailing attitudes of the era, it is unlikely that this absence did not cause her pangs of regret. I would have liked to see some exploration of that, mostly because I think glittering surfaces (which this book limns in loving detail) are even more beautiful when seen with shadows. It's like sterling silver flatware: When dipped into a cleaning bath as opposed to hand-polished, it's true that all the tarnish comes off, but all the character does too, and the pattern is flat and blah for lack of a bit of dark contrast that is left by the more labor-intensive hand polishing method.

The delight of the book was in Child's almost orgasmic recollections of the foods and wines she and her dearly beloved husband Paul Child ate and drank across the years. In the course of learning to cook the haute bourgeoise cuisine that she made famous in her native land, Child came alive to the joys and thrills of sight, smell, and taste in a way that only truly delicious food can cause a person to become. It was the positive counterpoint to her manifold frustrations in collaborative cook-bookery. The travails of preparing the Magnum Opus that is Mastering the Art of French Cooking simply don't do enough to make the author come off the page and join me in my reading chair. I rate books based on this type of measure, this degree of ability to enfold and immerse me in the narrative and the emotional reality of the tale being told. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I wasn't swept into it and away to France circa 1950, and that was what I came to the read expecting to happen. In fact, when I saw the film partially based on this book, Julie & Julia, I was completely swept away and eager to read the source material.

In the end, I got more out of watching Meryl Streep enact Julia Child than I did reading Julia Child reporting herself. I was disappointed.

And hungry.

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Profile Image for Mahlon.
314 reviews124 followers
October 16, 2009
I've never been a fan of Julia Child, and whenever I ran across her show on PBS I'd make a conscious effort to change the channel, which was why I was surprised when My Life in France turned out to be one of the most well-written, engaging Autobiographies I've read in quite awhile. The book covers roughly the same time period as the movie Julie & Julia except that it extends into the mid-70's and discusses the beginning of her TV career and the writing of her second book. Even though it was completed by her great-nephew and published after her death, Julia's unique voice and enthusiasm shine through. The reader will feel as if they are having a conversation with her over lunch. Julia's love of the food and people of France, as well as her husband Paul, permeate this book, and allow the reader to get a feeling for her as a person, rather than just an imposing, 2-D TV personality.

Like a hearty meal or a rich dessert, this is a book to be savored until the very last bite..Bon appétit!
Profile Image for Dana Stabenow.
Author 128 books1,909 followers
June 16, 2022
I spent the summer of 1987 in Paris, studying beginning French at the Sorbonne and staying at the Cité Universitaire, in a program geared toward older students. Some of them wanted to take a cooking class, and the Sorbonne organized it for them. They needed one more student to make it go, and I was browbeaten into filling the empty space.

Understand, I was raised on the five Alaskan staples of Spam, Bisquick, Velveeta, Pilot Bread and Carnation Instant Milk. If we didn't get our moose that year we didn't eat meat, except on my birthday, when I got pork chops no matter what. We got all the salmon and king crab we could eat for free. The salmon was mostly fried. The crab was mostly boiled. The first fresh milk I ever drank was in college. The first real cheese, same. Remember those Kraft Cracker Barrel packages of four logs of four different kinds?

So at the time I went to this cooking school, my most complicated prepared meal was a hamburger. Claudine, our chef, went around the class, asking where we were from, and when I said Alaska her eyes lit up. "Alaska," she said, "sauvage..." and made up a roux for wild game on the spot just for me.

I've been playing catch up in the kitchen ever since. I can't believe it's taken me this long to discover Julia Child.

This book is the story of her life in France, from the first oyster in Rouen to the last pot roast at La Pitchoune in Provence. It's a love story, of her marriage with Paul Child, who is about the most intelligent, charming man I've ever met between the covers of a book. It's a voyage of discovery into French cuisine, into the science of cooking, into collaborating on and writing a cookbook, or any book for that matter. And it's a mesmerizing walk through Paris looking over Julia's shoulder. The first year she says

By now I knew that French food was it for me. I couldn't get over how absolutely delicious it was. Yet my friends, both French and American, considered me some kind of a nut: cooking was far from being a middle-class hobby, and they did not understand how I could possibly enjoy doing all the shopping and cooking and serving by myself. Well, I did! And Paul encouraged me to ignore them and pursue my passion.

(You'll remember what I said about Paul being intelligent and charming.)

The how-to portion of this book is fascinating. French ingredients are different from American ingredients and the French learn cooking by watching, not reading recipes, so Julia would take the recipes of her French collaborators and translate them and the ingredients and the measurements of the ingredients into something an American cook could, first, buy the ingredients for in America, and second, understand and recreate. And then she'd test them and test them and test them and test them again, and she and Paul would eat them and eat them and eat them and eat them again until it was foolproof enough to unleash upon American cooks. "No one is born a great cook," she says, "one learns by doing."

In between they'd drive around France and eat in great restaurants. In a more perfect world I would have been their child.

She concludes with a remembrance of that first, marvelous meal in Rouen

...the sole meuniere I ate at La Couronne on my first day in France, in November 1948. It was an epiphany.

In all the years since that succulent meal, I have yet to lose the feelings of wonder and excitement that it inspired in me. I can still almost taste it. And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite --
toujours bon appetit!"

I gotta say, I got a little teary at the end of this book. And I just ordered my first ever copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Both volumes.
Profile Image for Left Coast Justin.
389 reviews78 followers
May 14, 2022
My three-star rating in no way reflects my opinion of this extraordinary woman and her extraordinary life. Her accomplishments and accolades were many, but I wouldn't count writing her memoir among her primary skills.

France and French culture are two things I've managed to ignore for most of my life. Recently, however, I've found myself pulled ever-closer to it, with my most-admirable French lady boss, my increasingly frequent trips there and the realization that -- Well. My wife and I both occupy the more wiry end of the phenotypical spectrum, and can put away butter like nobody's business. This knowledge has brought us closer to the world Child inhabited, with its cassoulets, beurre blancs and sole meuniere.

So interesting was Child's life that many of her experiences -- transcribing top-secret information from spies while living in Burma during WWII, living in Kunming, China (and enjoying the food) during that nation's Communist takeover, learning Norwegian -- were just tossed off as minor asides in her own description. For her, her life didn't really begin until she moved to Paris, and then Marseilles. This seven-year stretch was really the heart of this book, as she took her well-to-do Pasadena Republican-bred six-foot-two-inch (188cm) frame into France and learned how to live.

One of the great pleasures of this section was her openness to learning and new experiences. New in town and without any friends, she became close to a greengrocer who taught me all about shallots, and to tell a good potato from a bad one. Child did not grow up in a foodie family; it's something she learned all on her own, hanging around accomplished cooks in Paris and eating in nice (though not always fancy) restaurants.

She also had the most fun with language during this period of her life:
I learned how to do things professionally, like how to fix properly a piece of fish in thirteen different ways, or how to use the specialized vocabulary of the kitchen -- petits des are vegetables "diced quite finely;" a douille is the tin nozzle of a pastry bag that lets you squeeze a cake decoration as the icing blurps out.
I am always pleased when blurps show up in my reading.

These early days of her marriage, learning new skills, learning a new culture and having a grand old time in Paris and Marseilles, were the best part of her life and by far the best part of this book. Had she stopped after 250 pages, when circumstances forced her and her husband to return to the US, this would have been a better book.

Some of the book sounds very strange to modern ears:
[My sister] Dortie wrote to say she was pregnant, and described herself as "fat and helpless." I was so happy for her now that she was a full-fledged woman, with a breast-full of milk.
The idea that pregnancy is a requirement of womanhood now strikes us as borderline offensive, and while many people would comfortably describe their loved ones as "with a child in the womb," the "breast-full of milk" seems a little too food-obsessed, to my ears.

After the wonder years in France, we're on the treadmill with Child as she describes the difficulties she had in writing her first and second cookbooks, the breakdown of her friendships, her political distance from her family, her new life outside of France; none of this is much fun.

But if even half of the events she describes were true, she was truly a remarkable person and I'm pleased to have learned more about her.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,509 followers
November 22, 2014
A nice window on Child’s love affair with France and its food starting in the post war period. Her relationship with her husband Paul was a high point of the book. I appreciated her practical and good humored approaches to the challenges and solutions to helping the average household achieving quality meals. Some of her friendships and conflicts have some life and color, but for the most part the story came across as bland and sanitized. Some of her passion for particular foods comes through, such as for home-made mayonnaise and French bread. Ultimately, there was not enough real life drama (e.g. the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”), and I expected more humor. Maybe I was spoiled by the great channeling of Child by Meryl Streep in the movie “Julie and Julia.”
Profile Image for Kavita.
760 reviews370 followers
December 12, 2020
What a beauty! It's been a week since I finished reading this and it's still stuck in my mind. I had never thought a biography of Julia Child would be of much interest to me. I only picked this up out of curiosity after watching Julie and Julia. I hated Julie but was intrigued by Meryl Streep in the role of Julia. But even so, I didn't have high hopes from the book.

My Life in France proved to be a beautiful piece of work. It is written by Alex Prud'homme, Julia's great-nephew, who spent days trying to get to the essence of Julia's love of French food. He used old letters and his discussions with his great-aunt to write this book. What is wonderful about it is the way it evokes feels of post-war France in a way I have never seen anywhere else. It's like watching a wonderful Jacques Tati film, only without the satire. I enjoyed the utter fascination of Julia and her husband, Paul, with France and French food. But Prud'homme deserves his own accolades for the writing.

I really enjoyed reading about the relationship between Julia and Paul. They had genuine love and respect for each other. Here is one man you can say is the man behind the woman. Paul encouraged her in every venture and was content to play the second fiddle. Most of the women Julia talks about appeared to be working in the 50s, which I found quite intriguing. It was also interesting to read about Julia's relationship with her extreme right-wing father right in the midst of the McCarthy regime. Julia herself was left-leaning and appeared to be quite rational about her country's foreign policy.

Paul was a diplomat who was posted in France. This is how Julia got introduced to the country. It was instant love for her. After five years in France, they also lived in Germany, Norway, and the US. None of these places are described in quite the same way as France, so they were not as interesting to read about. The book does become less interesting in the second half once the couple leave France but by then I was so hooked with Julia's life and career that my interest remained strong. The author's descriptions of the various friends, acquaintances, and relatives of the couple gave a depth to the story and were sometimes quite funny.

And finally, the food! Julia was obviously passionate about food in all forms, but she was crazy about French gourmet food. I must admit the French have a great food culture, especially the way they take their time to actually eat. Even though I am a vegetarian, I actually began to appreciate Child's dedication to finding the freshest and best ingredients for her dishes. Her commitment to learning new dishes and experimenting on new ways to cook was inspiring. Sadly, I could not use most of her recipes because they were not vegetarian, but I found a couple of aubergine recipes that I totally intend to try out.

Julia Child was a remarkable woman, and Alex Prud'homme is a remarkable writer. This book is eminently readable and enjoyable.
Profile Image for Tim.
66 reviews57 followers
September 3, 2008
Lighthearted and fun recollections of Julia's first years in France. Highly recommended for anyone already enthralled by Julia, whether by her television programs or her excellent cookbooks.

Readers who do not know Julia may find the book a little too rambling, and a little too focused on food they've never tasted and have no idea what it even is (often she does not give translations for food names).

As noted in the introduction, the book was pieced together from conversations Julia's nephew had with her. He made notes at these conversations and then arranged the events described into some kind of chronological order. It is rather ingenious, because you are only reading the high points, the things an eighty-something year old woman remembers forty years later. Due to this, however, the narrative is not in any sense a complete autobiography, more like a series of remembrances arranged chronologically.

The book is an excellent portrait of the wonders of France just after World War 2, when the country was not as modernized as it is today. Also, the story is inspiring in that it starts when Julia and Paul are already nearing what some would call middle-age. It is not just young people that discover new things and live a life worth enjoying. Of course this is obvious anyway, but it is nice to see an example of it now and then.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,653 reviews1,688 followers
August 25, 2020
This was such a lovely reading experience, for lots of reasons. I felt refreshed while reading it, and afterwards. I’ve since made a little hobby of revisiting old episodes of The French Chef on YouTube because they are calming and delightful (and I can make a French omelet now!).

I spent a lot of time in my childhood watching PBS because my dad was cheap and wouldn’t pay for cable, so that meant lots of Julia Child. I remember not caring so much about the food but loving how goofy and unpretentious Julia was as the host. I loved the timbre of her voice. It was simultaneously over the top and soothing. I remember loving it when she messed up, which happened often, and she just owned it. Anyway, except for watching Julie & Julia twice (the Julia parts are far superior to the Julie ones) I’ve barely thought of Julia Child since I was a kid, and that turns out to be a shame.

This is a memoir of Julia’s life, focusing largely on her time spent in France (if the title didn’t give it away). She and Paul lived in Paris for about a decade after WWII, which is where Julia fell in love with cooking, and with France itself. The majority of the book, about 60%, chronicles those ten years as she discovers herself relatively late in life, her marriage with Paul (which is #relationshipgoals), and the development of her career as a cook, a bestselling author, and a TV personality. Her love for food, her husband, for France, just falls off the page. She’s very introspective as a writer (although, the book was co-written with her nephew Alex Prud’homme, so I’m not fully clear on how much of the book was influenced by him).

I knew I would enjoy learning about Julia’s life, and the endless descriptions of rich, delicious foods that I’m sure would make me very ill if I ate them (sad tummy), but what really surprised me is how much I enjoyed this book as a sort of historical document. There are some instances where she quotes letters written at the time, but it’s not a true primary source document because it’s mostly told from her recollections. (Apparently someone published a book of letters between Paul and Julia, though, which I might be interested in reading–they both had terrific senses of humor and were very intelligent people. Nora Ephron used these letters as a source for Julie & Julia, and one of them has one of funniest and raciest lines in the film.) But, still, the insight into post-war American (and French, obviously) culture was fascinating. Julia’s fraught relationship with her very Republican father felt extremely familiar (she spends a not insignificant amount of time mourning their lack of connection, which she attributed to his incurious, close-minded personality), and she often muses on what was going on politically at the time, because it affected Paul’s job.

Overall, though, what you get when you read this book is a sense of a life well lived, full of learning and love and cooking. Julia Child seems to have been a person who did things because she liked them, and not for many other reasons. Her love of teaching on TV took her by surprise, as did her passion for cooking, but she ran with it, and her enthusiasm and hard work carried her through. I highly recommend reading this, even if you aren’t at all familiar with Julia Child.

Also, did you know that garlic soup (Aigo Bouido) is a thing? I’m going to make some, but first I have to master Julia’s recipe for mayonnaise. As much as her career was based on encouraging Americans to cook things from scratch, she was also very practical, so I’m sure she wouldn’t really mind, but I would still feel bad using Best Foods or whatever in her recipe. Garlic soup!
Profile Image for Lisa (Harmonybites).
1,834 reviews331 followers
January 19, 2013
I found this an absorbing read, and I'm no foodie. But I think what's striking in this memoir of Child's love affair with French food is her drive, her dedication to excellence, her passion--there's something attractive in that no matter what the endeavor--as well as fascinating to get a picture of such an elite, esoteric world as high cuisine. It all started for Julia in 1948, when she had her first French meal. When she came to France she knew only a smattering of such French phrases as "Merci, Monsieur" (wretchedly pronounced) and was a terrible cook. She didn't even know what a shallot was, let alone what to do with one. One taste of sole meunière and she had an "epiphany." One that would lead her to study French cooking at the renowned Cordon Bleu culinary school, learning to cook everything from "snails to wild boar" and eventually lead to her collaboration on the ground-breaking cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and to her television show, The French Chef.

I'm not even sure after reading this if I like Julia Child. She came across at times as ruthless (she calls herself "unsentimental"), stubborn, opinionated--and ironically dismissive of those of different beliefs. I say ironically because she's so hard especially on her father and what she considered his ignorant views and intolerance. She was a liberal Democrat, he was a conservative Republican. And therefore, it seems to her, naturally a boob compared to the sophisticated Julia. Except that as she admits, it was only due to his generosity that she and her husband, living on his salary as a government employee, could live an affluent lifestyle consuming fine wines, escargot, truffles, Camembert cheese and foie gras. (Admittedly, one can understand her bitterness towards the GOP given what she related about her husband's brush with McCarthyism.) And while Child paints her father as xenophobic--well, her comments on the English made me cringe, and she characterized Germany as a "land of monsters." (Admittedly, when she and her husband were posted to Bonn, it hadn't been long since World War II. As for the English, she didn't care for their cooking--and that seems to have been a capital crime to Julia Child.)

Did I mention this is about a love affair with French cooking? Because it is. This made me salivate at the descriptions of Brie, bouillabaisse, baguettes. On the other hand, my vegetarian friend would probably find this book nauseating, and there's enough odes to red meat, cream, mayonnaise--and above all butter--to make a cardiologist weep. Nor could I imagine putting the effort, the time and expense, into cooking that Child described here. I'll happily leave the making of brioche and quenelles de brochet to professionals and limit myself to recipes no more complicated than tabbouleh. But I did enjoy the picture of post-war Europe. This was written by Child with the help of her grandnephew and based on the letters her and husband wrote at the time, so her reminiscences, especially of her time in Paris and Marseilles, are vivid and evocative.
Profile Image for Izzy.
15 reviews15 followers
April 9, 2008
I think the reasons I wanted to read this book are that Julia's always thought of as a late bloomer, and because her travels were so influential in helping her discover herself.

Certainly, her life had great adventure.

Highlights: p. 268

Too tired and busy to go to France. "But then we looked at each other and repeated a favorite phrase from our diplomatic days: "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. So we packed up our bags and off we went. And thank heaven we did!"

Her description of Provence, which she admits has changed since: "It was the cool, early-morning layers of fog in the valleys; Esterel's volcanic mountains jutting up out of the glittering sea; the warming Provencal sun and bright-blue sky; the odor of earth and cow dung and burning grapevine prunings; the colorful violets and irises and mimosas; the olives blackening; the sound of little owls talking back and forth; the sea-bottom taste of Belon oysters; the noisy fun of the marketplace; the deeply quiet, sparkling nights with a crescent moon hanging overhead like a lamp. "

What does it mean that the prose gets better near the end? I want to sail to Europe; how much more fun than flying! I want to see my car brought out of the cargo hold on by a crane.

I just saw a biography about Julia. It really was Paul who introduced her to food. But should you fault where you hear about that which you're destined to know of? And she pretty much comes out and says he dated every woman in Ceylon before he considered her. The biography used his letters to show how he was critical of her at first and then warmed up. What am I supposed to feel about this? I admire her tenacity; yet I'd be unwilling to date someone who noticed me as late as second. She has a different kind of attitude about life that really makes me think. She mentions that they would have welcomed children. I think, though she was very liberal, you couldn't call her modern. Maybe that's not so bad; I just don't think most people would do things this way. And maybe she stayed up nights crying, but she really seems too no-nonsense for that. Meanwhile, knowing I'm fairly young, I still worry about the appropriate time to have children, oh, nonstop. I kinda wish I could just make that kind of commitment to my own husband, so that I could focus on something else. But, for me, I always am never really sure if I'll want to be with him in five years. What do you think it's like to be not restless? But maybe she finally found that in cooking? Maybe I'll find myself someday.
Profile Image for Sophie.
648 reviews18 followers
October 29, 2016
I expected to really enjoy this book. I came to it from the movie Julie and Julia, because I loved the movie’s portrayal of this large, fun-loving, charming American who finds her passion for food while living in Paris; I couldn’t wait to delve deeper into Julia and Paul’s adventures in France. Unfortunately, it turns out Meryl Streep endowed Julia Child with a charm and humility that is entirely missing from this book. In its place is a woman whose snobbishness, smug superiority and self-satisfaction I found…well, unpalatable.

I guess my biggest gripe is that Julia Child felt the need to settle scores with her father. The book was written when Julia was in her nineties and her father had been dead for four decades, but that didn’t stop her from taking potshots at him every chance she got. Way too much of the book is devoted to her railing about “Pop” and how much she didn’t like him, his attitudes or—most especially—his politics. Her relationship to him really had nothing to do with the story, and the anecdotes she provides about him show his generosity toward her more than anything:
After I’d written two politically provocative letters to my father, he had not replied. Instead, he’d deposited five hundred dollars in the bank so that I could buy some decent winter clothes. This put me in a quandary. I was grateful for his help, of course, but did I really want to accept his money? Well, I did
How lovely of her to overcome her stern principles to take her father’s money. Mind you, she was thirty-seven years old at the time she took handouts from her father while scorning his viewpoint. Nothing pathetic about that. But the worst is that even after decades to mature and reflect on him, she still used ungenerous and disloyal phrases like “moneyed, materialistic, not at all introspective…not intellectual, and was intolerant and incurious…he was an example of how not to be” and the kicker: “frankly, my father’s death came as a relief more than a shock. I suddenly felt we could go to California whenever we wanted to, without restraints or family trouble.” What a peach of a daughter she must have been. Too bad we can’t ask Pop what he thought of her.

Nor was Pop the only powerful man she felt a need to belittle. President Eisenhower did not meet with her lofty approval either:
Ike was just not inspiring: I got nothing but a hollow feeling from his utterances, as if Pluto the dog were suddenly making human noises.
Although here, you can kind of see her point. After all, Eisenhower was just the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, architect of D-Day, and the president who maintained peace and prosperity in the face of Soviet aggression. What is that to a woman who has mastered the complex art of boiling eggs?

Not that it was just men she scorned. Indeed, the targets for Julia’s venom and snobbery were as plentiful—and tedious!—as her menu recitations. Great Britain:
It was those ruddy English faces, so held in by duty, the sense of “what is done” and “what is not done,” and always swigging tea and chirping, that made me want to scream like a hyena
the military:
The army families showed almost no interest in Germany or the Germans…wives were perfectly nice, but conventional, incurious, and conservative; the men spoke in Southern accents, usually about sex and drink
unlike most of the US Army types, our OSS colleagues were a fascinating bunch
Americans (of course):
many of our fellow citizens seemed blissfully unaware of world politics or culture, and seemed exclusively interested in business and their own comfort
fellow chefs:
she didn’t strike us as especially organized, or sober
her co-author:
She was a dear friend, but horribly disorganized and rather full of herself
Simca didn’t have as full a grasp of the language as she thought she did
and even, occasionally, her beloved France:
I usually knew more about a dish than the French did, which is so often the case with a foreigner
In fact, no one lived up to Julia’s exacting standards except, of course, Julia herself.

All in all, it was tedious exercise in self-congratulation and I’m sorry I read it. Next time I see Julie and Julia I'm going to try to forget what an unpleasant person she really was and pretend that Streep’s is the more accurate portrayal.
Profile Image for Negin.
608 reviews151 followers
March 5, 2017
“Madame Scheeld” – since reading this book, I’ve been smiling at how the French would address Julia Child. I love accents!

This is a delightful book about Julia Child and the things that she loved the most: her husband, France, cooking, and eating. I’m quite sure that I’m in the minority in that before reading this, I’d never watched an entire episode of Julia Child on TV. I was sad when the book was over, but now I have my eyes set on getting some of her cookbooks and looking up some of her shows.

I loved reading this anecdote about her husband Paul. It makes me long for the days of old when people used to send letters to each other.
“Paul and his twin brother, Charlie Child, a painter who lived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, wrote to each other every week or so. Paul took letter writing seriously: he’d set aside time for it, tried to document our day-to-day lives in a journalistic way, and usually wrote three to six pages a week in a beautiful flowing hand with a special fountain pen; often he included little sketches of places we’d visited, or photos (some of which we have used in these pages), or made mini-collages out of ticket stubs or newsprint.

This was taken in 1953, probably in Provence:

Some of my favorite quotes:
“I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine. I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as ‘Oh, I don’t know how to cook . . . ,’ or ‘Poor little me . . . ,’ or ‘This may taste awful . . . ,’ it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, ‘Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal!’

“Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile—and learn from her mistakes.”

“One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.”

“… no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing. This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook—try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”

“… nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should. Good results require that one take time and care. If one doesn’t use the freshest ingredients or read the whole recipe before starting, and if one rushes through the cooking, the result will be an inferior taste and texture—a gummy beef Wellington, say. But a careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life-changing experience.”

“… the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite—toujours bon appétit!”
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,630 reviews327 followers
January 25, 2023
Best autobiography I've read in years. With 7,000+ reviews and 74,000+ ratings, I will be brief. If you're at all interested in Julia Child and/or French cooking/culture, this is the book for you.

The real review here to read is Melissa's, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
And, if you're another Dana Stabenow fan: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

A couple of anecdotes: in 1950, they got a new maid for their Paris apt. -- who promptly tried to flush a beer can down the toilet. Cost for the plumber: $100 US. Her husband Paul's salary then was (if memory serves) less than $100/wk. They didn't fire the maid!

Julia's path to getting her first cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," published was not straightforward. After a couple of false starts, she sold her book to Alfred A. Knopf in 1961, who had low expectations. But the book sold over 100,000 copies in its first five years, and remains in print today!

She retired to the Santa Barbara/Montecito area, and passed away in 2004. RIP ♰
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,653 followers
July 19, 2012
If you love books about food or about living in France, this is a must-read. It's the story of how Julia Child learned to cook French food and how she came to write that famous cookbook. (The movie "Julie & Julia" was partially based on this memoir.) The book is filled with charming anecdotes about Paris and Marseille, and includes dozens of photographs that her husband, Paul, took. It's one of the most delightful travel books I've read in years.

What's wonderful about Julia Child is the confidence she can inspire in a new cook. I liked this quote toward the end of the book:

"The great lesson ... is that no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing. This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook -- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun!"
Profile Image for Michelle.
92 reviews20 followers
January 24, 2021
The French food and ambiance described on these pages was sublime and provided the escape I sought. Additionally, I enjoyed learning more about Julia Child and her life in la belle France, as remembered and written with her great nephew. Julia & Paul's journey was reflected upon in a lovely series of vignettes, letters, photos, and stories that carried them through years of living around Europe and the US. The historical & literary references sprinkled therein have inspired me to learn more about a few topics, including the writers Colette and Alice B Toklas, the Marshall Plan, and McCarthyism.

It never occurred to me that a cookbook that has been on my shelf for decades had such a rich backstory to its creation. Bon Appetit!
Profile Image for Deity World.
863 reviews8 followers
May 23, 2023
Beautiful read from when she first met her husband to the day she became famous, having watched the movie Julie and Julia I was very interested in reading her life story
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,244 reviews
January 20, 2010
A thorough delight! After all her marvelous culinary contributions, Julia Child (with her nephew, Alex Prud'homme) has created a literary gem--one that will no doubt fill your tastebuds with longing but will satisfy many other senses as it is a joyous, exuberant, intelligent and touching memoir sharing her love for husband Paul, for France, and for good food! I admit that I was fascinated by Julia Child's cooking shows when they aired re-runs on PBS during my childhood--what a big woman, with such a delightfully funny voice, so very excited about cooking chickens and chopping onions! I've maintained a sort of distant fondness ever since, although now that I'm grown-up and have my own kitchen, I really hadn't given her much thought until I watched the charming "Julie and Julia" and was enchanted by Julia and Paul's heartwarming marriage and Julia's intelligence, determination and spirit. Reading her book made me wish the entire movie had just focused on her life! (It did a very good job of capturing the essentials but the book is, as always, so much MORE!)

For those who know Julia Child through her cooking shows, and her down-to-earth personality full of warmth and humor, you will find all of that in her book. And while Julia said that her work really had helped her develop as an individual she really was so much more than just a good cook. Her intelligence led her to work for the OSS (a predecessor to the CIA) during WWII where, in China, she met Paul, ten years her senior, a highly intelligent and artistic man who loved painting and photography and joined her in her liberal political views. His fascinating government job as a sort of cultural ambassador and PR man--designing exhibitions in foreign countries, maintaining good international relations, etc.--led them to various countries. It was upon her arrival in France and her very first meal at a French restaurant that Julia had a self-proclaimed "epiphany" and realized that she wanted to mold her life around good food. Julia learned French, began to take cooking classes--to give her something to do as a way of making Paris "home" Yet her passion and her talents grew beyond her home kitchen. The rest, as they say, is history!

Paul's support of Julia's endeavors was paramount even as she had to uproot every few years to move for his new assignments--they truly seemed a team. I loved the details about their life, from the sweet French stray cat that adopted them in Paris, to the delightful characters they met in the French countryside, to Julia's confession of loving rubber stamping, to her frustration over not being able to express her political views eloquently enough. The Childs thrived on intellectual society--"eggheads", as Julia called them, but those who enjoyed discussing ideas and weren't too stuck in their own ideology--and those who appreciated the arts, too. The writing style is engaging and delightful and the descriptions of France and of food made me long to visit and partake of the feast (though my vegetarian tendencies caused me to cringe at a few of the recipes, I must admit!) Though the entire book does not take place in France (it follows into their stationing in subsequent countries while Julia worked on her cookbook and to America when she began her TV series) everything in it is rooted to Julia's French epiphany and how her calling in life really began in France. It's also a marvelous glimpse at history since it briefly mentions Paul and Julia's war-time assignment, a France still raw from the war, the rise of the Communist threat and McCarthy-era hunts, and the Apollo flight! Julia's "The French Chef" cooking show was the first successful television cooking instruction program and I loved how she always referred to it as "teaching." In her second round of shows, she had the idea to travel to France to film many of the time-honored food preparation techniques that, she feared, would sooner or later phase out in the light of more modern and "convenient" technology--she wished for the shows to be a sort of time capsule and monument to the culinary tradition with which she had first fallen in love.

For those who saw and loved the movie, hurry up and read the book! You will learn so many more fascinating and charming details about Julia's life. But, truly, I would recommend this book to anyone--Julia Child fan, Francophile, gourmet, anyone interested in spending a few hours with an intelligent, warm-hearted and humorous woman whom you also wish could stay and help you cook (and then eat) dinner! :-)

"No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing. This in my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun! ... In all the days since that succulent [first:] meal [in France:], I have yet to lose the wonder and excitement that it inspired in me. ... The pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite!" -- Julia Child
Profile Image for Agnes.
577 reviews9 followers
October 16, 2008
I love Julia Child, it turns out! This memoir is fun and I want to live her life. I want to live in Paris, Marseille, Oslo and Boston too, creating sumptuous recipes, hanging out with James Beard and decorating a summer house in Provence. Seriously, why am I not her? I wouldn't even mind being dead since 2004.

I am totally convinced that her cookbooks are the foremost authorities on French cooking, now that I've seen how many times she would experiment with a basic recipe to get it right. Makes me want to read her cookbooks cover to cover to actually learn how to really cook. Good thing her "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" vols. 1 and 2 have been on my Amazon wishlist for a year...and my birthday is coming up...these might be fun for several people to go in together on...there are also her "The French Chef" dvds, also conveniently located on my wishlist...

I am nothing if not subtle.
Profile Image for Patti.
205 reviews
April 1, 2012
I will say that this book made me want to buy her cookbooks, because it is clear that she painstakingly researched recipes to make them foolproof and accessible to the American chef. However, by the time this book was over, I didn't like Julia at all. She seemed more focused on her Dad's narrowmindedness (don't understand why this was relevant), her co-author's stubbornness (when it was clear that she had plenty of it herself) and the superiority of her cookbook to all others than the eagerness, joy and energetic manner she conveyed at the beginning of the book. It was like you could feel her getting old, annoyed and proud (in a not positive way) as the book wore on. I was interested at the beginning. By the end, I just wanted it to be over. Ah well, maybe I'll find her cookbook to bring some joy to my own kitchen.
Profile Image for Sterlingcindysu.
1,341 reviews48 followers
August 17, 2018
I really liked the style of how this book was written--very organized, just as Julia was! Can you imagine writing such a cookbook as she did with no computer to keep tabs on all the testing, changes, etc? She would have loved Good Eats when Alton Brown does all his chemistry talk especially with all the testing of mayonnaise, of all things!

I realized early on that Julia and I would not be friends--she was so focused and intense. Was anyone else surprised that she didn't watch tv until after she was on PBS? Everything for her was cooking, writing, testing and eating. I was shocked near the end when she said that golf was her favorite game--when did she have time to golf?

She says at one time that she likes "eggheads"--I always thought that meant bald men! Not intellectuals.

Profile Image for Aishu Rehman.
817 reviews736 followers
August 20, 2020
If you're a fan of Julia Child or French cooking, or love France, you'll love this witty book. Co-written near the end of her lifetime, My Life is France gives an intimate perspective of Julia Child's joy with life, France, and cooking. If you own Mastering the Art of French Cooking, this is a perfect companion piece. It's also a great gift for good and/or aspiring cooks. It might even inspire the poor or non-cook.
Profile Image for joyce g.
300 reviews40 followers
July 9, 2017
Well what can I add to my loving Julia Child as a food personality and chef. She is iconic in her love of life and someone I have always admired.
Never Apologize!!
Profile Image for Melora.
575 reviews141 followers
November 17, 2016
Interesting. I can't say I was crazy about the style, or Julia herself, for that matter, but her enthusiasm and energy came across clearly (relentlessly!) and I found her story to be, mostly, engaging.

Though I'm not actually interested in French food as a general thing, I do remember Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking as a fixture on my mom's cookbook shelf, and I find the social history aspect of the thing – the growing curiosity and excitement about gourmet cooking alongside the increasing availability use of convenience foods among American home cooks in the 50's and early 60's – an appealing subject.

As I read I found myself swinging between aggravation at her brash, self-congratulatory tone and admiration for her passion, curiosity, and drive. I can only imagine how exhausting she must have been to work with, but what a dynamo! And there were several points where my irritation at her “holier than thou” attitude about her father or others was mitigated by her fuller explanation of circumstances – the McCarthy witch hunts really were awful, and the racist, anti-Semitic attitudes of her father and his country club set were instrumental in allowing these un-American persecutions to last as long as they did. Her letter to a McCarthyite committee member at Smith College, Child's alma mater, who was recklessly communist-hunting among the school's professors, inclined me to forgive her a fair number of condescending generalizations about Americans:
”In the blood-heat of pursuing the enemy, many people are forgetting what we are fighting for. We are fighting for our hard-won liberty and freedom, for our Constitution and the due processes of our laws; and for the right to differ in ideas, religion, and politics. And I am convinced that in your zeal to fight against our enemies, you, too, have forgotten what you are fighting for.”

As I said, I'm not a “foodie,” but there were places where Julia's lovingly detailed descriptions of the taste, texture, and smell of meals made me (briefly) feel like getting up to go mess around in the kitchen. Multi-course, complicated meals aren't my thing, but visions of luscious slices of beef wrapped in delicate buttery pastry were dancing in my head. I've never seen her on television, but I'm going to look for some episodes of her show now – her excitement about delicious food really comes across in this book. The challenge of writing down complicated recipes in a way that fully explains but does not intimidate was something I'd not thought much of but learned to appreciate here, and also the issue of translating recipes for readers whose ingredients may be different from the ones the author is using (French flour vs American flour, French chocolate vs American, etc.). Who'd have thought?

Still, there were several aspects of the book I found annoying. The writing itself probably well conveys Julia's storytelling style – it is very breezy, enthusiastic, and sincere. The way the book was written – Julia told stories to Alex Prud-homme and he wrote them up and showed them to her to approve – is very evident. This offers immediacy, but also gives a certain “jumpiness.” Especially in the case of Julia's relationship with her collaborator, Simone Beck, she shifts between describing Simca as a dear friend and valuable partner to claiming that she was careless, uncooperative, and unreliable. Sometimes things are mentioned which seem as though they will have some relevance to the unfolding story, and then they never do. There are some things that struck me as odd that may simply be a function of a ninety-two year old looking back on her life. She describes a restaurant dinner that she and Paul had in France: “Here we were, two young people obviously of rather modest circumstances, and we had been treated with the utmost cordiality, as if we were honored guests. The service was deft and understated, and the food was spectacular.” You might think that they were in their early twenties at this time, but actually Paul was 46 and Julia was 36. And, similarly, she tells about her younger sister visiting them and making obnoxious prank calls to Parisian shops. To hear Julia describe it she clearly thought her sister was engaging in adorably youthful hijinx, but her sister was 31 at the time. In places her dated slang also was a distraction. Still, the story of how an aimless new bride developed into an internationally known cook and author, and how she became an iconic figure on television, rises above these peculiarities and flaws and offers some interesting insights into American social history. Three and a half stars.
Profile Image for Yvonne.
7 reviews6 followers
May 25, 2008
This was a Christmas gift from my best-friend-forever Ariel, and a perfect read not only for foodies and urban farmgirls like myself, but anyone who's going through the "if not now, when?" blues. As some previous Goodreaders have already noted, it's a bit of a revelation to read about someone so famous (or infamous, if you've seen Dan Ackroyd's histrionic impersonation of "Jules") being such a late bloomer. This is America, and even though Miss Thing found herself in France, we prefer our great ones to know their calling and find their way as early as possible. In the womb, if you can swing it. Child is an engaging writer, and the book details the almost decade of Child slowly, carefully building herself up from someone who truly had difficulty boiling water to the grande dame of the culinary world we know and love today. She found a passion and followed it without worrying (much) about how it would pan out, no pun intended. Mastering the perfect oeufs was it's own reward. Also? Doesn't sound like working for The Man has changed much in 70 years. There are some eyerolling tales here of the Childs being tossed about like an old Raggedy Ann doll by their employer, the U.S. government, that will make anyone who collects a paycheck nod with recognition. (Sxcept that startling part about husband Paul being investigated by the government for suspected homosexuality. Apparently they sussed out such tendencies back then by making you take a trip to the home office and requesting you take your pants down. If you refuse, apparently you weren't gay and could keep your job! Oy.) But yes, if you love food, travel, cooking, late bloomers, France, tiny cars, dogged pursuit of unlikely passions and hobbies, and maybe Julia, this one's for you.
Profile Image for Ellen.
379 reviews4 followers
March 9, 2014
This book really opened my eyes to Julia's passion to excel at French cooking over the course of her lifetime, which really took a great deal of courage and conviction given the lack of American female role models. I thought the writing seemed a bit choppy in parts though that probably was due to Julia's death in 2004, before she would have been able to fill in some of the narrative. A great read for anyone who appreciates fine food.
Profile Image for Сhristie ♥.
258 reviews3 followers
March 2, 2023
Я нарешті збагнула чому мені так подобаються мемуари! Це ж наче подорож в часі. Герої та події цілком реальні, а описи країн і місць навіюють легку меланхолію.

Чи існує ще ресторан La Couronne з путівника Michelin, який з такою любов’ю і трепетом до всього французького описує Джулія Чайд? Чи готують там ще Sole meunière — найважливішу страву її життя? Мабуть, ні. Адже, з листопада 1948 пройшло вже 75 років! Проте на сторінках мемуарів Джулії він все ще існує в своєму найкращому вигляді.

I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly. The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter. I chewed slowly and swallowed. It was a morsel of perfection.

Провести кілька вечорів в товаристві Джулії та Пола Чайлдів (поміж своїх Pulia, так наче вони були дві половинки одного цілого) — така прекрасна форма ескапізму! Я закохувалася у Францію, розглядала майстерні плівкові фотографії Пола на сторінках, досліджувала гастрономічний та кулінарний світ того часу, аналізувала політичну ситуацію в роки після Другої Світової (rapacious Russion was not to be trusted), спостерігала за клопітким процесом творення знаменитої кулінарної книжки Mastering the Art of French Cooking і захоплювалася стосунками, які вони плекали у своєму шлюбі. А ще уявляла себе однією зі запрошених на вишукані вечері у їхньому будиночку La Pitchoune в Провансі (тепер у ньому розташована кулінарна школа https://www.instagram.com/lapeetchfr/...)! Ви лишень погляньте на це меню…

We started our evening off with iced Clos des Goisses champagne, which Paul served in the big bubbly-glass goblets that we’d bought in Biot, the local glassmaking town. The first course was tomates farcies à la pistouille (https://cookswithoutborders.com/tomat... tomatoes stuffed with chopped eggplant, fresh tomato pulp, basil, and garlic. A poached egg sat on top, like a queen on her throne. Underneath was a lettuce leaf, and the dish was surrounded by freshly made mayonnaise. With this we served a lovely Chablis, Fourchaume 1964.

From there we moved on to un feuilleton de boeuf en croûte, a beef tenderloin in a pastry crust. Inspired by our loup en croûte, this dish was like a beef Wellington, only it substituted the more handsome, delicious, and non-damply dumpling brioche crust for puff pastry. The tenderloin was sliced into about fifteen pieces and sauced with a heavenly mixture of duxelle of mushrooms, ham, foie gras, shallots, and Madeira; then the whole was wrapped in brioche and baked. Each slice was served with a bit of crust and stuffing, and a spooning of sauce. An important dish, our boeuf was served with the non-distracting pommes Anna fromagées (https://www.suggest.com/pommes-anna-r...) and pointes d’asperges sautées à la chinoise (https://www.neff-home.com/fr/the-ingr...). This was accompanied by a magnum of velvety Château Haut-Brion, Premier Grand Cru Classé, 1964.

For dessert we had a so-called pouding pélerin (https://www.wgbh.org/dining-in/2018/0...), made of ground toasted almonds, kirsch, and apricots with crème anglaise in a mold lined with lady fingers toasted in butter and sugar, the whole covered by a sauce purée aux fraises et framboises (https://noshingwiththenolands.com/jul...). (The dessert’s name refers to the pèlerins, the old pilgrims who stuffed their pockets with nonperishables like dried apricots and almonds.) Our pouding was accompanied by the nectarlike Château d’Yquem 1962. And we finished with cigars from Havana, brandy, liqueurs, and coffee. Three of the ladies shared cigars, and everyone’s faces were aglow. At about 1:30 a.m., the party broke up. What a splendid evening.

P.S. Кажуть, що потрібна книжка приходить у правильний час. Скільки років лежала вона в мене на Kindle, і ніяк не було натхнення читати спогади Джулії. Думаю, тоді коли я активно подорожувала і сама смакувала світ, мені б не вистачило посидючості і такого захоплення про це все читати в якихось мемуарах! А зараз під час війни була дуже потрібна ця втеча в минуле життя і смаки Франції..
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