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A LIFE WELL LIVED REMEMBERED
le 2 juillet 2009
Rather than a complete biography this ebulliently phrased memoir covers the years Julia and her beloved husband, Paul, spent in France (1948 - 1954). Paris was where the the woman remembered as the doyenne of French cooking got a rather late start on what was to be an enormously succesful career.
Paul and Julia met in Ceylon where both worked for the Office of Strategic Services, and married in 1946. Two years later Paul was assigned to head the exhibits office of the U.S. Information Service in Paris. A painter and photographer who had been to France earlier he was well suited for the task. On the other hand, Julia had never been to Europe, came from a middle class, conservative California family and by her own description was "six-foot-two-inch, 36-year-old, rather loud and unserious." Little did she know what a life altering experience France would be.
She well remembers their first meal in Rouen which she described as "absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life." Thus began her love of French food, in fact for all things French - the markets, the people, the restaurants, the countryside. At that time she was an average cook at best but determined to learn how the French prepared such glorious food. To that end she learned the language and then enrolled at the famed Cordon Bleu. Surely no student has ever worked harder, more doggedly or found as much joy in food preparation as Julia. She wanted to know every infinitesimal detail of each dish, including the whys and wherefores of ingredients chosen, and variants in cooking time.
Eventually this devotion to French cuisine led to a partnership with two French friends (Simone Beck and Laced Bertholle) in a cooking school and from that to dreams of a cookbook for the American market. There was a very long road ahead filled with happiness, surprises and disappointments but the book was published at last. This, of course, led to Julia's television series and more cookbooks.
My Life In France is filled with rhapsodic descriptions of dishes and accompanying wines as well as details of keeping house in a country still recovering from a devastating war. Due to Paul's career the Childs moved from Paris to Marseille to Bonn to Washington to Oslo and then Paul's retirement. Julia met every challenge with pluck, purpose and bonhomie. Hers was a life well lived, thoroughly enjoyed, and vividly remembered.
- Gail Cooke