Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Toujours Bon Appetit!

One of the secrets of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; one of lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed. --Julia Child

Last night I finished Julia Child's book, My Life in France.  Whenever I mention the book, people first think of the movie Julie & Julia, but perhaps that is a shame.  While it is true that I did not know about Child's book before the movie, this book contains so much more beauty and life that the movie ever could!  This book is one that will stay with me for a long time and I encourage you to go out and read it, whether or not you saw the movie.

I have always loved travel writing--books about living abroad and travels.  I absolutely adored Peter Mayle's series of books about his life in France; it begins with A Year in Provence, moves into Toujours Provence, and ends with Encore Provence.  I also love France; I was fortunate to travel there a bit during college and visit some lovely friends living in Provence at the time.  So it comes as no surprise that I could not put Julia's book down!!  The book chronicles much more than just her life in France--I would consider it almost an autobiography.  She touches on her childhood, her family, her first meeting Paul (her husband), and their early marriage before they move to France.  Of course she writes extensively about her time in Paris where she first learned to cook (not until her late 30s!!) but then she continues on about life in Marseille, France; Bonn, Germany; Oslo, Norway; Cambridge, MA.  She describes her rise to fame--a happening that surprised her just as much as anyone else.

I simply loved everything about this book.  Her descriptions of food vary between mouth-watering to outrageously gross sounding and everywhere in between.  Some of the descriptions of the strange meats and animal parts the French eat were very weird to me, but it was still fascinating to read about.  I appreciated her descriptions of buying food from outdoor markets or from the artisans who made the cheese, bread, sausage, etc.  I wish we all could shop that way!!  This passage in particular about the attitude toward food resonated with me:
This is the kind of food I had fallen in love with: not trendy, souped-up fantasies, just something very good to eat.  It was classic French cooking, where ingredients have been carefully selected and beautifully and knowingly that tastes what it is.
 I also love reading about Julia's many relationships--with Paul, with her co-author, with the multitude of characters she meets in Paris and elsewhere.  Her descriptions of the countryside are heavenly and caused me to fantasize about jumping on the next plane to the south of France!  But overall, it is Julia's voice that makes this book a sheer pleasure to read.  Julia's sincerity, essence, and joy for life seep through every word.  I felt as though I got to spend a few days enjoying her lovely company.  I also took heart that one need not become a success overnight--good things come with time, step by step.  For Julia, the fame and fortune were just a wonderful by-product of following her heart and doing what she loved--cooking.  A wonderful, inspiring read that I utterly Julia would say, bon appetit!!

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