My Life in France
In her memoir, we discover that Julia Child was not born with a
wooden spoon in her hand; her early cooking experiences were
sometimes less than delectable. Her adventures, culinary and
otherwise, are chronicled in amazing detail and much charm, written
with Alex Prud'homme, Paul Child's grandnephew.
The book opens with an introductory first sentence from Julia that
speaks for itself:
"This is a book about some of the things I have loved most in life:
my husband, Paul Child; la belle France; and the many
pleasures of cooking and eating."
The story begins as Paul and Julia move to Paris after two years in
Washington, D.C. Thirty-six-year-old Julia has mixed feelings about
the move. She fears that the quiet, stylish, mannerly, and tiny
French would be aghast at a six-foot-two-inch "rather loud and
unserious Californian." However, almost instantly Julia is enamored
of France and its people. She delights in her first French meal,
sheepishly telling her husband she doesn't know what a shallot is.
The description of that first meal, and the many following, is as
loving as if she were describing her firstborn.
Julia begins to cook a bit, helped by French friends who show her
the best places to shop and introduce her to new foods such as
snails and truffles. As her food consciousness rises, her ability
to speak French also improves. Her next step is to sign up for a
year-long course at the famed cooking school, Cordon Bleu, where
she discovers a true passion for French cooking (she calls it her
"personal calling"). She also realizes she has much to learn ---
she can't even scramble eggs properly. Indeed, even as she grows
more knowledgeable, she continues making cooking errors, resulting
in bizarre dishes.
Julia's passion for cooking extends beyond school. At home, she
experiments, making batch after batch of mayonnaise and other
dishes. She begins to write down recipes. After graduation (she
fails her first final exam and has to take it over), Julia joins
two women in opening a small cooking school. The three begin
collaboration on a cookbook that, after countless publishing
disappointments and rejections over many years, would eventually
become MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING, a classic that would
change cooking in the United States forever.
Julia and Paul move to Marseille and then to Germany, finally
moving back to Washington, D.C. Everywhere, they find adventure,
friends, and delicious food. Julia, of course, becomes a celebrity
chef, starring in her own television series and writing several
In MY LIFE IN FRANCE, Julia emphasizes "the importance of including
fun and love in the preparation of a meal!" Both
elements are abundant ingredients in this book as well. Aided in
their research by a mountain of family letters and Paul Child's
photos, some of which illustrate the book, each anecdote is
detailed and lavishly described. Julia's voice shines through; she
appears as she seemed in life, refreshingly unselfconscious,
willing to poke fun at herself, and full of passion (and aren't we
fortunate to experience Julia Child once again now, after her death
in 2004? Many thanks to Alex Prud'homme. Without his nudging and
brilliant work, we would miss out on this late-served and
It all adds up to a delightful and fascinating read. In fact, I
give it the ultimate book reviewer's compliment: I'm keeping my
copy in order to reread it. Highest recommendation.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on January 12, 2011