Julia Child memoir a romance with France
|||Serve up frittata hot or cooled|
By John Skoyles
By John Skoyles
Julia Child's memoir "My Life in France," written with Alex Prud'homme (Knopf, $25.95) is a love story: a couple's love for each other, and Child's love for a country and its cuisine.
The book is not so much written as it is told, as her grandnephew and co-author, Alex Prud'homme, has put together these autobiographical stories from his conversations with her and from numerous letters written by Child (who died in 2004) and her husband when they lived in France.
The result captures her charm, warmth, and above all, her determined and robust spirit.
The book begins and ends with her recalling her first meal on arriving in France in 1948. The dish was sole meuniere, "a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top." She refers to this in her closing paragraph as a "life-changing experience."
In France, she finds food central to life, and she gleefully recounts the rarified expertise of chefs and purveyors of meats, fish, cheeses, fruits and vegetables. In a creamery, the owner asks her what time the camembert she orders will be served — and Child marvels at the woman's "ability to calibrate a cheese's readiness down to the hour."
A major part of the memoir is about the writing of her groundbreaking book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." The manuscript went through years of research and rejection before being published in 1961 to wide acclaim.
But "My Life in France" is more than an account of her increasing obsession with food. The book tracks her marriage to Paul Child, his work for the U.S. State Department, and their struggle to make a life together abroad.
She traces her growth as a cook, but always links it to the jobs they held, and their family and friends, so there is a human backdrop to her own culinary saga.
The great achievement of "My Life in France" is Prud'homme's capturing of Julia Child's voice. Anyone who has heard her on television will immediately recognize the frank, jovial and embracing tone.
He brings to life her selfeffacing nature and her generosity toward others, but also an even rarer quality — her extraordinary cheerfulness. In "My Life in France," we hear Julia Child with all the intimacy and warmth with which she spoke to her family and friends.