Saturday, May 03, 2008

My Life in France by Julia Child

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)


Claire said...

I simply adore this book and have recommended it to so many people.

Anonymous said...

Your reference to Julia Child typing and re-typing her manuscript, reminds us all how much we take writing on the computer for granted, and how recent this is.

I can now hardly imagine writing something reasonably long on a typewriter, and I sympathize extremely belatedly to all the countless generations of writers of yore, who laboriously wrote and re-wrote, and typed and re-typed, their immortal masterpieces.

How Marcel Proust would have loved writing on a computer!!!

But should something happen which made all our computers inoperable overnight, forcing us to return to the typewriter, we would adapt, and adapt quickly.

We humans are amazingly flexible when push comes to shove.

Anonymous said...

But Becky, you are a good cook. Dad

Anonymous said...

I think J. Child is a hoot. I have very early memories of her on TV, dropping a chicken carcass on the floor and (apparently) following my kids' 10-second rule: Still edible!

Actually, e-mail will make it far easier to retrieve data. You can't burn those letters, they exist on hard-drives forever. And I'm not convinced that letters written via the e-waves are less good than those written in ink on paper... Perhaps they're written more quickly, but tant mieux.

By the way, I made Child's favorite coq au vin (somehow, it appeared in Parade magazine at some point last year) and it didn't turn out so fabulously. Dunno why. Perhaps that store-bought clucker.

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