I remember seeing Julia Child on TV as a young kid. My mother was enamoured of her, though I can’t remember very many French dishes making it to our dining table. But then, as children, my younger brother and I were probably not the best testing ground for such lovely food. We were very plain fare orientated until our college days, when we had to cook for ourselves and learned to explore the delights of cookbooks. By then, sadly, I think Julia Child was no longer on air.
Joie de Vie
But her style and joie de vie has always stuck with me. And in a recent YouTube trawl looking at recipes I came across an episode of her cooking lobsters. (I gather it is quite famous, and I can see why.) Viva la difference for certain, even by today’s standards.
I doubt a chef today would be allowed to re-enact cooking live lobsters on television . Yet, I suspect when it first aired it had to have been quite simply, ground breakingly ‘wow’.
Julia Child in France
Seeing that YouTube episode (and honestly I have never seen a lobster that large, ever!) made me wonder about Julia Child’s life. She was American, but known as the ‘French Chef’. I thought it was because she cooked French food. I did not know it was because she spent a good portion of her life living in France. As a transplant myself, as well as a lover of food and cooking, my interest was piqued.
I bought her ‘Life in France‘ book* for my kindle, and began to delve deeper.
A Quick Recap
The book is actually written by Alex Prud-homme, her great nephew, with Julia’s assistance whilst in her 90s. The stories and background come mostly from letters written by her husband Paul to his twin brother Charlie. In consequence, you get an almost tasters menu of information. Little vignettes (of which I am inordinately fond of) of their life.
The lovely thing is, because it is in a sense a series of short collected stories there is no belabouring of a point. You literally get a taste of a moment and then suddenly you may be transported to the next day or even the next year.
But those moments are delicious, detailed and often full of fun. On the whole it is quite an upbeat book, passionate about life, with a no nonsense attitude thrown in. Rather like what I think Julia Child was like in real life.
What is even more enjoyable, particularly as a recent transplant to France myself, is that she gives real insight in to the culture of France; it’s people, why they do things the way they do, and of course the food.
Yes, much of her story is from the mid 20th century, but it goes a long way to explaining why the French do what they do today – including, though definitely not exclusive to, why food is so important to them.
I can’t say this book is a gripper. I found it more easy to slip in to and out of as my mood dictated. Because in a sense it is a collection of often very short stories, it is easy to do this. And like most good books, the further you get into it the more you wish to know and you come back to it more and more frequently.
Her life was a long and very full one. She lived in multiple countries, put her hand to many tasks (especially cooking) and became one of America’s most famous, if not the most famous, chef. The term joie de vie sums her up beautifully, and this really comes across in the book. It certainly inspired me to cook, even though there isn’t a recipe to be found in it.
Whether you are a lover of good food, a closet chef (or even out of the closet), but particularly if you have an interest in France, this book is very much recommended.
As Julia Child would say ‘Bon appetite’.
(click on the image to purchase)
*Our Book Club Disclosure
For our Vive le Livre Book Club we are affiliated* with Bookshop.Org. As great readers ourselves, we wanted to offer a way to purchase the books we recommend about France and the French (and wine). We specifically chose to affiliate with Bookshop because they support independent bookshops. They are currently supporting, and you can buy from, bookshops in the UK, USA and Spain.
For this and other books we recommend in our book club, simply click on your book of choice below to read more or purchase…
We also offer a small selection of vintage book finds, mostly English, some French in our own Shop.
*If you would like to read more about our Affiliates, visit our Nourishing Pumpjack & Piddlewick page.