This is a quick read. Three things struck me about it. One is this: Where will memoirs like this come from in the age of e-mail? Child and her co-author, Alex Prud’Homme drew heavily from letters she and her husband Paul Child wrote while they lived in France in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. These letters were saved by the recipients and were returned to Julia to help her remember her years in France in detail. Thus this book is filled with vivid descriptions of meals, friends, and vacations, details that no one would remember 50 years on without letters or perhaps diaries to jog the memory. Nowadays an American living in France is writing e-mail messages home to family and friends; what happens to these messages? I don’t imagine anyone is archiving them, but maybe I’m wrong.
The second thing that I noticed right away was how many hours poor Julia spent typing and retyping her manuscript! Mastering the Art of French Cooking would have been published years earlier if Julia had had a computer (but then again, she wouldn’t have had those hand-written letter to draw from, so it all evens out).
And the final thing that struck me was how far away from Julia’s ideal of cooking and dining we have traveled in this country. Going to the outdoor market, buying chicken from the old woman who raised the birds, perfectly cooking the chicken in butter with fresh herbs, making a simple salade verte to go with it, choosing the correct wine; I can’t even pretend that this is my life.
(Book 15, 2008)