Spotlight on Julia Child: Consummate Cook, Francophile, and Bon Vivant

10Aug09

By Emily Waldorf

When I was a little girl living in Boston, I used to watch Julia Child’s television show, The French Chef, and giggle at her unusual voice, Big Birdesque stature, and her theatrical demeanor.  Since I didn’t have any cooking experience at the time, I couldn’t appreciate Ms. Child’s culinary genius and expert yet accessible cooking instruction.  Last year, my mother (an accomplished cook) gave me a copy of Julia Child’s memoirs,  My Life in France, co-written with Alex Prud’homme, when I first expressed an interest in learning how to cook.  I was delighted by the grande dame of French cooking’s wonderful stories of living, cooking, and above all, having fun, in la belle France.  It is easy to understand why Nora Ephron was enchanted by Child’s memoirs and adapted them along with blogger Julie Powell’s story into the new movie, Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

41qqk52kqil1If you don’t care for France and the French and aren’t particularly discerning about what you put in your mouth, then you might think Ms. Child’s memoirs are stodgy, too lengthy, and potentially condescending.  Ms. Child’s tone is decidedly high culture and borders on anti-American at times.  If, however,  you are able to think critically about the setting of Ms. Child’s memoirs as well as her attitude, you will become enveloped in the richness and the passion with which she tells her inspiring story.  France and Julia Child cannot be separated, they are one and the same.

Ms. Child was a phenomenal woman, attacking classes at the snobbish Cordon Bleu with religious zeal, starting up an amateur cooking school, co-authoring one of the most ambitious French cookbooks of all time, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and starring in the very first cooking show on television, which was no small feat for a woman in her day.  Her memoirs expose a human side, her life with her intellectual husband Paul Child, her friends and family, and the trials of getting her book written and published all breathe new life into her legend.  Like Ms. Child’s annual Valentine’s Day card pictured on the book’s cover, her memoirs are a love letter to the art of cooking, French culture, and living well, which she sums up so very well in her closing words, “bon appétit, toujours bon appétit!”

  • Read Alan Riding’s glowing review of the My Life in France in The New York Times.
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One Response to “Spotlight on Julia Child: Consummate Cook, Francophile, and Bon Vivant”

  1. I love this post. I’m currently reading Judith Jones’ memoir “The Tenth Muse, My Life in Food.”


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