Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Bon Appetit!"

If you're wondering whether the person who comes across in My Life in France could be anything like the wacky and wonderful character created by Meryl Streep in Julie&Julia, the answer is oui, oui, and again oui! Every bit as alluring as her cooking expertise are Child's all-embracing appetite for experience and her ability to convey her adventures colorfully, idiosyncratically, and with a soupçon of self-deprecation. Truly, there should be a picture of her smiling mug in every French dictionary under "joie de vivre." Interlaced with her husband's superior black-and-white photographs, the book chronicles her love affair with France and its cuisine,
from soup to nuts. Warning: her descriptions of favorite restaurant meals, cheese shops, bakeries, picnics, and even vegetable sellers' wares will leave you faint with longing. Here's one of the young couple's first forays into Parisian haute cuisine:  

Colette, looking somewhat fierce
"Over the course of the next two hours we had a leisurely and nearly perfect luncheon. The meal began with little shells filled with sea scallops and mushrooms robed in a classically beautiful winy cream sauce. Then we had a wonderful duck dish, and cheeses, and a rich dessert, followed by coffee. As we left in a glow of happiness, we shook hands all around and promised almost tearfully to return…. And that is where we first laid eyes on Grande Dame Colette. The famous novelist lived in an apartment in the Palais Royal, and the Véfour kept a special seat reserved in her name in a banquette at the end of the dining room. She was a short woman with a striking, almost fierce visage, and a wild tangle of gray hair. As she paraded regally through the dining room, she avoided our eyes but observed what was on everyone's plate and twitched her mouth."
This video of Child demonstrating omelette making (the topic of her first show) is one of the few online showing her in action, but the book gives a visceral sense of the unaffected and ebullient persona that endeared her to avid viewers of her PBS series (it also takes you behind the scenes at its inception). 
Has anyone tried recipes from her books (or show)?


  1. Though I'm admittedly amateurish in the kitchen, I've spent hours glued to Julia's shows and remembrances. Undoubtedly one of a kind, she has become the barometer for class (and sass!) in the kitchen.

  2. "my life in france" was a spectacular read! julia's love and enthusiam for cooking is absolutely contagious. and her methods of "cookbookery" (as she referred to the process of cookbook writing) were really interesting. alas, i have never seen her solo tv productions, but episodes of "jacques & julia," where she co-hosts with jacques pepin, bring me no end of joy!

  3. Thanks so much for your observations.
    Wilhelm, I love your description of Julia so much I wish I had written it myself!

  4. Loving "My Life in France!"