Friday, March 5, 2010

"My Life in France" by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme

I saw this on a library shelf and was immediately taken by the lovely photo of her and Paul wearing their Valentine hearts.

This book is for anyone who is a "foodie", fan of "Julie and Julia" or loves France the way the ladies of SATC love NYC.

The book is a bit long in the middle, as it becomes clear that as much as one loves food, sometimes (gasp!) there is more to life and memory then what one ate. But the real soul of the autobiography is the life that Julia and Paul had and how she may have been in her late 30s before she found her calling, but once she found it, she went for it, loving and living everything French, food and friends.

If you are a fan of the movie, there are parts you will immediately pick up on, and there are parts in which you realize the film fictionalized things for the art of storytelling.

You get a sense of Julia's strong work ethic, one which demands precision but allows for mistakes. She relates to the poverty the French went through due to the war and how perhaps that influenced their love of food. And her final pages play very well with what happens as beloved people age, get sick, frail, die.

It is also clear that Julia became Julia because she was raised upper middle-class, fell in love with a wonderful man who stood beside her all along and she came into opportunities that were a mixture of pure chance but also due to her persistence, work and spirit.

As someone who wishes he could eat as cruelty free as possible, there is something about how much animal flesh plays a part in the book, but one gets a sense that Julia neither romanticizes the animals or trivializes them. She talks of eating all kinds of birds and cooking animals in their blood. I wonder how the animals were raised and treated in France at the time.

Oh, and if you want to learn how to make the best eggs? page 60

Ready for some buttery soul?

How to survive in France? "Just speak very loudly and quickly and state your position with utter conviction as the French do and you'll have a marvelous time!" (x)

Page 63: "I had never taken anything so seriously in my life- husband and cat excepted- and I could hardly bear to be away from the kitchen. What fun! What a revelation! How terrible it would have been had Roo de Loo come with a good cook! How magnificent to find my life's calling, at long last!"

Page 71: She makes a horrible lunch and eats it with a friend. "We ate the lunch with a painful politeness and avoided discussing the taste. I made sure not to apologize for it. That was a rule of mine. I don;t believe in twisting your self into knots or excuses over the food you make. When a hostess starts in with is so dreadful to have to reassure her...besides, such admissions draws attention to one's shortcomings...Usually one cooks better than one think it is. And if the food is truly vile...then the cook must simply grit their teeth and bear it with a smile- and learn from her mistakes.

129: in regards to teaching, her husband Paul tells Julia one must be willing to "play God" for a bit, in other words to be an authority.

181, some very blue-humour, courtesy of their friends who detests incompetents "You can't fertilize a five-acre field by farting through a fence."

234: Paul, on getting older and developing health problems "One thing that separates us Senior Citizens from the Juniors is learning how to suffer. It's a skill, like learning how to write."

243: a phrase from a diplomat "Remember, no one's more important than people." In other words, as Julia writes, friendship is the most important thing, not a career or housework or one's fatigue and needs to be tended and nurtured.

244: "You have to do it and do it, until you get it right"

274: " was important not to rush, push too hard , or to take people's goodwill for granted."

297: "The great lesson embedded in the book (From Julia Child's Kitchen) is that no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing. This is my invariable advise to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun!"

299: Paul thinks the closing of their French home each year is a death, but not to Julia. "To me, life moves forward." On 300 Julia gives up her beloved home when Paul and all her family and friends are not longer able to enjoy it.

302: "I learned why French food is an art, and why it makes such sublime eating: nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should. Good results require that one take time and care...a careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life-changing experience."

No comments: