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My Life in France
 
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My Life in France [Format Kindle]

Julia Child
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Foreword_In August 2004, Julia Child and I sat in her small, lush garden in Montecito, California, talking about her life. She was thin and a bit stooped, but more vigorous than she’d been in weeks. We were in the midst of writing this book together. When I asked her what she remembered about Paris in the 1950s, she recalled that she had learned to cook everything from snails to wild boar at the Cordon Bleu; that marketing in France had taught her the value of “les human relations”; she lamented that in her day the American housewife had to juggle cooking the soup and boiling the diapers—adding, “if she mixed the two together, imagine what a lovely combination that would make!”The idea for My Life in France had been gestating since 1969, when her husband, Paul, sifted through hundreds of letters that he and Julia had written his twin brother, Charles Child (my grandfather), from France in 1948–1954. Paul suggested creating a book from the letters about their favorite, formative years together. But for one reason or another, the book never got written. Paul died in 1994, aged ninety-two. Yet Julia never gave up on the idea, and would often talk about her intention to write “the France book.” She saw it, in part, as a tribute to her husband, the man who had swept her off to Paris in the first place.I was a professional writer, and had long wanted to work on a collaborative project with Julia. But she was self-reliant, and for years had politely resisted the idea. In December 2003, she once again mentioned “the France book,” in a wistful tone, and I again offered to assist her. She was ninety-one, and her health had been waxing and waning. This time she said, “All right, dearie, maybe we should work on it together.”My job was simply to help Julia tell her story, but it wasn’t always easy. Though she was a natural performer, she was essentially a private person who didn’t like to reveal herself. We started slowly, began to work in sync, and eventually built a wonderfully productive routine. For a few days every month, I’d sit in her living room asking questions, reading from family letters, and listening to her stories. At first I taped our conversations, but when she began to poke my tape recorder with her long fingers, I realized it was distracting her, and took notes instead. The longer we talked about “little old France,” the more she remembered, often with vivid intensity—“Ooh, those lovely roasted, buttery French chickens, they were so good and chickeny!”Many of our best conversations took place over a meal, on a car ride, or during a visit to a farmers’ market. Something would trigger a memory, and she’d suddenly tell me about how she learned to make baguettes in Paris, or bouillabaisse in Marseille, or how to survive a French dinner party—“Just speak very loudly and quickly, and state your position with utter conviction, as the French do, and you’ll have a marvelous time!”Almost all of the words in these pages are Julia’s or Paul’s. But this is not a scholarly work, and at times I have blended their voices. Julia encouraged this approach, pointing out that she and Paul often signed their letters “PJ” or “Pulia,” as if they were two halves of one person. I wrote some of the exposition and transitions, and in so doing tried to emulate Julia’s idiosyncratic word choices—“Plop!,” “Yuck!,” “Woe!,” “Hooray!” Once I had gathered enough material, I would write up a vignette; she would avidly read it, correct my French, and add things as they occurred to her in small, rightward-slanting handwriting. She loved this process, and was an exacting editor. “This book energizes me!” she declared.Julia and I shared a sense of humor, and appetite, and she thought I looked like Paul, which probably helped our collaboration. As for me, I was grateful for the chance to reconnect with her and to be part of such an interesting project. Some writers find that the more they learn about their co-authors the less they like them, but I had the opposite experience: the more I learned about Julia Child, the more I came to respect her. What impressed me most was how hard she worked, how devoted she was to the “rules” of la cuisine française while keeping herself open to creative exploration, and how determined she was to persevere in the face of setbacks. Julia never lost her sense of wonder and inquisitiveness. She was, and is, a great inspiration.Another great inspiration has been our editor, Judith Jones, who worked with Julia for more than forty years. With patience and a deep understanding of our subject, she was indispensable in helping to shape this book. Judith’s assistant, Ken Schneider, was also a great help.On August 13, 2004—just after our conversation in her garden, and only two days before her ninety-second birthday—Julia died of kidney failure in her sleep. Over the next year, I finished My Life in France, but every day wished I could call her up and ask her to clarify a story, or to share a bit of news, or just to talk. I miss her. But through her words in these pages, Julia’s voice remains as lively, wise, and encouraging as ever. As she would say, “We had such fun!”Alex Prud’hommeAugust 2005IntroductionThis 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. It is also something new for me. Rather than a collection of recipes, I’ve put together a series of linked autobiographical stories, mostly focused on the years 1948 through 1954, when we lived in Paris and Marseille, and also a few of our later adventures in Provence. Those early years in France were among the best of my life. They marked a crucial period of transformation in which I found my true calling, experienced an awakening of the senses, and had such fun that I hardly stopped moving long enough to catch my breath.Before I moved to France, my life had not prepared me for what I would discover there. I was raised in a comfortable, WASPy, uppermiddle- class family in sunny and non-intellectual Pasadena, California. My father, John McWilliams, was a conservative businessman who managed family real-estate holdings; my mother, Carolyn, whom we called Caro, was a very warm and social person. But, like most of her peers, she didn’t spend much time in the kitchen. She occasionally sallied forth to whip up baking-powder biscuits, or a cheese dish, or finnan haddie, but she was not a cook. Nor was I.As a girl I had zero interest in the stove. I’ve always had a healthy appetite, especially for the wonderful meat and the fresh produce of California, but I was never encouraged to cook and just didn’t see the point in it. Our family had a series of hired cooks, and they’d produce heaping portions of typical American fare—fat roasted chicken with buttery mashed potatoes and creamed spinach; or well-marbled porterhouse steaks; or aged leg of lamb cooked medium gray—not pinky-red rare, as the French do—and always accompanied by brown gravy and green mint sauce. It was delicious but not refined food.Paul, on the other hand, had been raised in Boston by a rather bohemian mother who had lived in Paris and was an excellent cook. He was a cultured man, ten years older than I was, and by the time we met, during World War II, he had already traveled the world. Paul was a natty dresser and spoke French beautifully, and he adored good food and wine. He knew about dishes like moules marinières and boeuf bourguignon and canard à l’orange—things that seemed hopelessly exotic to my untrained ear and tongue. I was lucky to marry Paul. He was a great inspiration, his enthusiasm about wine and food helped to shape my tastes, and his encouragement saw me through discouraging moments. I would never have had my career without Paul Child.We’d first met in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) during the Second World War and were married in September 1946. In preparation for living with a new husband on a limited government income, I decided I’d better learn how to cook. Before our wedding, I took a bride-to-be’s cooking course from two Englishwomen in Los Angeles, who taught me to make things like pancakes. But the first meal I ever cooked for Paul was a bit more ambitious: brains simmered in red wine! I’m not quite sure why I picked that particular dish, other than that it sounded exotic and would be a fun way to impress my new husband. I skimmed over the recipe, and figured it wouldn’t be too hard to make. But the results, alas, were messy to look at and not very good to eat. In fact, the dinner was a disaster. Paul laughed it off, and we scrounged up something else that night. But deep down I was annoyed with myself, and I grew more determined than ever to learn how to cook well.In our first year as young marrieds, we lived in Georgetown, in Washington, D.C., in a small white clapboard house on Olive Avenue. While Paul worked on mounting exhibits for the State Department, I worked as a file clerk. In the evening, I would approach the stove armed with lofty intentions, the Joy of Cooking or Gourmet magazine tucked under my arm, and little kitchen sense. My meals were satisfactory, but they took hours of laborious effort to produce. I’d usually plop something on the table by 10:00 p.m., have a few bites, and collapse into bed. Paul was unfailingly patient. But years later he’d admit to an interviewer: “Her first attempts were not altogether successful. . . . I was brave because I wanted to marry Julia. I trust I did not betray my point of view.” (He did not.)In the winter of 1948, Paul was offered a job running the Visual Presentation Department for the United States Information Service (USIS) in Paris, and I tagged alo...

From Publishers Weekly

Famed chef Child, who died in 2004, recounts her life in France, beginning with her early days at the Cordon Bleu after WWII. Greenberg, an actress for radio and commercials, does a fine job capturing Child's joie de vivre and unmatched skill as a culinary animateur. We hear Child's delight and excitement when she discovers her calling as a writer and hands-on teacher of haute cuisine; her exasperation as yet another publishing house rejects her ever-growing monster of a manuscript; and her joy at its publication and acclaimed reception after more than a decade of work. Child's opinionated exuberance translates remarkably well to audio, from her initial Brahmin-like dismissal of the new medium of television (why would Americans want to waste a perfectly good evening staring into a box, she wondered?) and frustration at her diplomat husband being investigated in the McCarthy-driven 1950s to her ecstasy about roast chicken and mulish insistence on the one correct method to make French bread at home. The seamless abridgment has no jarring gaps or abrupt transitions to mar the listener's enjoyment. Potential listeners should beware, however: this is not a book to hear on an empty stomach. Bon appétit!
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Audiofile

MY LIFE IN FRANCE opens in 1948 with a newly married Julia Child seeing Le Havre, France, for the first time. Relying on detailed letters her husband sent to his twin brother, Julia shares anecdotes of food and wine, new marriage, and life in Paris and at the Cordon Bleu. The book moves through Julia's collaboration on the seminal MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING and her experiences with her PBS cooking show, "The French Chef." While Kimberly Farr's voice is a bit too smooth to accurately portray Child's highly recognizable and energetic style, she handles the many French terms with grace, and the overall effect is enjoyable. D.J.P. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

Booklist

Knowing little about the country and less about its cooking, Child sailed to France with her new husband in 1948. Her first meal after debarking, a simple sauteed sole, opened to her (and to posterity) a new world. She began her French sojourn as the underemployed and ever-curious wife of a diplomatic officer, frustrated at being unable even to speak the language. Language classes led to cooking classes, then to partnering with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle in an American book contract. Child's devotees know the basics of this story, but the details reveal the gradual education of Child's palate, her anti-McCarthy politics, her intense love for her husband, and her boundless capacity for hard work. Although Child died before this memoir compiled from her papers reached completion, her grandnephew Prud'homme proves a worthy editor. In seamlessly flowing prose, the text follows Child's growth as a cook into one of the best and most influential teachers of the twentieth century. Like Child herself, this memoir is earnest but never pedantic. Her eye for the ironic, her sense of humor, and her sharp sensitivity to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and colors that surround her make lucid, lively reading. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Revue de presse

“Exuberant, affectionate, and boundlessly charming . . . It chronicles, in mouth-watering detail, the meals and the food markets the sparked her interest in French cooking . . . It also tells the story of the inspired partnership between Child . . . and her husband, Paul . . . Every day in France brought a thrilling new discovery, but Child’s capacity for wonder and delight co-existed with ‘show me’ skepticism . . . It is a wonderful picture of the most successful American export to France since Benjamin Franklin.”
–William Grimes, The New York Times

“In mouth-watering detail, her learning years in Paris and the stellar career that followed.”
–Meeta Agrawal, Life Magazine

“Captures her charm, warmth, and, above all, her determined and robust spirit . . . Anyone who has heard her on television will immediately recognize the frank, jovial, and embracing tone.”
–John Skoyles, The Seattle Times/Associated Press


“What a joy . . . charming . . . inspiring.”
–Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly

“Like a surprise nougat bursting from the center of a chocolate truffle, My Life in France also serves up her moving romance with the Renaissance man of her life . . . her husband, Paul Child.”–Andrew Marton, The Philadelphia Inquirer


From the Hardcover edition.

Présentation de l'éditeur

When Julia Child arrived in Paris in 1948, a ‘six-foot-two-inch, thirty-six-year-old, rather loud and unserious Californian’, she spoke barely a few words of French, and didn’t know the first thing about cooking. ‘What’s a shallot?’ she asked her husband Paul, as they waited for their sole meunière during their very first lunch in France, which she was to describe later as ‘the most exciting meal of my life’.

As she fell in love with French culture, buying food at local markets, sampling the local bistros and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life began to change forever, and we follow her extraordinary transformation from kitchen ingénue to internationally renowned (and internationally loved) expert in French cuisine. Bursting with Child’s adventurous and humorous spirit, My Life in France captures post-war Paris with wonderful vividness and charm.

Julia Child was born in Pasadena, California. She worked for the OSS during World War II; afterwards she lived in Paris, studied at the Cordon Bleu and taught cooking with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, with whom she wrote the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). From 1963 to 1973 she presented The French Chef on American television, and several other television shows and numerous cookbooks followed. She died in 2004.

Alex Prud’homme, Paul Child’s grandnephew, is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Time. He is the author of The Cell Game and the co-author of Forewarned. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.

Biographie de l'auteur

Julia Child was born in Pasadena, California. She was graduated from Smith College and worked for the OSS during World War II in Ceylon and China, where she met Paul Child. After they married they lived in Paris, where she studied at the Cordon Bleu and taught cooking with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, with whom she wrote the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). In 1963, Boston’s WGBH launched The French Chef television series, which made her a national celebrity, earning her the Peabody Award in 1965 and an Emmy in 1966. Several public television shows and numerous cookbooks followed. She died in 2004.
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