Tonight I finished Julia Child’s My Life in France, an autobiographical work (co-authored with Alex Prud’Homme) covering Julia’s life from the early 1950’s through the mid 1970’s or so. As the name implies, the focus is on Julia’s time in France, both while living there while her husband Paul worked for the American foreign service and then later while keeping a vacation home in Provence.
The book largely concerns itself with the development of Julia Child’s love of France and it’s cuisine. It’s remarkable to think that for the first three decades of her life, Julia wasn’t an accomplished cook at all – in fact, her husband wrote some good natured but honest reviews of her early attempts at cooking in letters to friends and family. It was her exposure to the food in France – from her very first meal of her very first day – that developed into a passion that is now legendary and familiar to anyone that could possibly consider themselves to be a “foodie.”
A significant portion of the book concerns the development of the book that eventually became Mastering the Art of French Cooking, along with its sequel. It also covers the beginnings of The French Chef, one of the first (if not the first) successful cooking programs on American television. I watched some broadcasts of the show back when Food Network actually showed cooking programs instead of extended travel sequences showcasing their celebrity talent, and while the production values look a little dated when compared to today’s fare her passion and verve were always unquestioned.
This will sound silly, but I heartily recommend My Life in France to anyone that enjoyed the movie Ratatouille. Much of the same sense of romance with both France and French cuisine is present throughout the book, and it’s extremely engaging. Reading Julia Child refer to balls (yes, those balls) in print is an experience I never imagined I’d enjoy, and if you read carefully you can hear her speaking the words on the page in her own distinctive voice. It’s a wonderful experience.