Thursday, December 8, 2011

Life After 40

A few years back, when my friend, Kim, turned 40, I bought her a copy of Julie and Julia by Julie Powell.  In that book, a girl living in New York, Julie, decides that she will spend a year cooking every recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the cookbook which made Julia Child famous.  Julie blogs about her culinary adventure, and eventually her blog became a book.  I thought this was a great book for me to give to Kim, because we had just finished editing a cookbook for our kids' elementary school.  After Kim read it, she passed it on to me, and thus began my relationship with Julia Child.

After reading Julie and Juila, I wanted more Julia, and read My Life In France by Juila herself.  MLIF (no, not "MILF") is Julia's story of not knowing what to do with her time while her husband, Paul, was stationed in France for his job, and taking up French cooking.  Julia loved French cooking so much, that she moved on to teaching cooking lessons with two of her friends.  The three of them then began writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  One thing that I love about Julia is that she didn't take her first French cooking class until she was in her late 30s, and she was well into her 40s when Mastering the Art was published and she really knew what she wanted to do with her life.

The movie, "Julie and Julia" came out a couple of years ago, and I have to say that it is great.  In fact, it is the only movie that I can think of that is actually better than the book.  The movie is a combination of the books, Julie and Julia and My Life in France, and is focused much more on Julia Child than Powell's original book.

When I went to Paris last year, I looked up Julia Child's apartment, which she called "the Rue de Loo", but which is actually at 81 Rue de L'Universite.  Here is a picture of me outside.  I also went to the cooking store which she loved and raved about in MLIF, E. Dehillerin, on Rue Coquilliere.  I had figured that E. Dehillerin would have been overwhelmed with tourists since the movie had been released, but when I went there, that seemed not to have been the case.  At first the staff was a little standoffish, and I was surprised, after talking with a salesperson, that he wanted to know about Detroit.  He asked about the music from Detroit, and I assumed that he was referencing the Motown songs.  Actually, he wanted to talk about the Techno music fests, which are apparently better known in Europe than they are in Beverly Hills, just 5 miles north of The D.

This brings us to As Always, Julia:  The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, as edited  by Joan Reardon.  MLIF tells the story of Julia's struggles with getting her cookbook published, and this is echoed in As Always.  As Always is not really a story at all, but a collection of letters exchanged between Julia and Avis.   Their relationship started when Avis' husband wrote an article about how inferior American knives were in the 1950s.  Julia read the article and wrote to its author, enclosing one of her favorite French knives.  Avis wrote Julia a thank you note, since her husband, Bernard, was too busy.  From there, Avis and Julia established a pen pal relationship that spanned the Atlantic.

Mastering the Art was intended by Julia to be a fool proof book allowing busy American wives to successfully cook French dishes which they probably thought were too difficult for them.  Julia painstakingly cooked and re-cooked every dish until she had the instructions just right.  The problem was that Julia was cooking in France, and writing a book for Americans.  Julia consulted with Avis regarding what ingredients may be hard to find, how cooking times may vary, and how certain instructions may be interpreted.  Without Avis, Mastering the Art would never have worked.  Without Avis' publishing connections, it probably would not have made it to print.

Frequently, while reading As Always, I drifted off to sleep.  Several times I told myself that if the book was so boring, I should quit reading it.  But it was not boring.  It was just so soothing to be reading letters between two strong women who established their relationship in paper and pen, that sometimes I did find myself startled awake with the book still in my hand.  As Always tells the stories of the election gossip of the 1950s, of the McCarthy hearings, and of the battles with Child's co-authors.  Details about recipes are worked out, including one of Child's most famous, scalloped potatoes.  But I did take the full three weeks of my library loan to read the book, which is unusually slow for me.

My mom gave me back MLIF, without finishing it.  To my dismay, she found it boring.  As Always, Julia, is not going to be the book for her either.  However, if you loved MLIF, and can't get enough Julia, then As Always is worth the read.

Next up:  Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster

Almost Done Listening to:  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.  In fact, I have passed the part where the reader said "The End" and am now listening to the 12th and last disc which Eggers says one should only listen to if one does not have anything else available.  That is exactly my situation!  I tried to get Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami in book form at my library and was surprised to find a lead on it in CD form first.  My library doesn't own it in either form, so I had to order it.  I placed my order 4 days ago, but sometimes these things take a while, and I don't want to start something new while I wait.  I'm hoping Eggers makes this 12th disc last.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...