Julia Child’s “My Life In France”

[Note: this entry is a transfer from my Windows Live blog, dated April 18.]

I’m about a third way through this book and I’m enjoying it a lot. The past half year or so I started to have more free time to read. One of the new categories for me was cooking/food books. I found myself reading authors like Mark Bittman, Harold McGee, Michael Pollen, Jeffrey Alford and Julia Child.

Julia Child was the chef, writer and TV host who single-handed introduced French cooking into the American home kitchen. Her cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was published in 1961, and it basically changed the way Americans look at French cooking. The best cookbook is not only accurate but also with a fluent prose. Child’s book is like that. The recipes are amazingly readable, with or without the intent to cook them.

“My Life in France” told the story of Julia and his husband Paul Child’s days in Paris, roughly from 1948 to 1954. Those are not the best days of Europe, considering that France was just trying to rebuild herself from the damages of World War II. (Childs’ apartment was without heating. Paris was without bright street light. Downtown Paris had almost no car, and a big smog almost blinded people all the time.) Nonetheless, she and Paul enjoyed Paris and La Bella France very much, almost fell in love at first meal.

Talking about meals, Julie Child is an American, brought up in the “non-intellectual” Pasadena, CA in the ’20s. Her mom didn’t cook, nor did she. They have hired cooks from time to time, producing typical American fare, such as “fat roasted chicken with buttery mashed potatoes and creamed spinach..” The meal she had in France is like a revelation: she found her calling. She described her first meal ‘Sole Meuniere’ in Rouen as:

“The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter. … It was a morsel of perfection…. I experienced fish, and a dining experience, of a higher order than any I’d ever had before.”

The book came with photos of 1940’s Paris and France, taken by her artist husband. I liked them very much.