Monday, October 19, 2009

My Life in France

One bit of silver lining about being sick is the chance to reach into your nightstand drawer and pull out one of the books tucked away in there, and finally read it.

I just finished My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme last night, laying low because Dave said I needed a rest (Did that mean I was a bit crabby?  A bit.).

I ripped through this pausing only for a snack or two, but that is to be expected considering the entire book is about her experience with food.  She begins in Paris, then to Marsaille, and the writing of her cookbook manuscript takes over and becomes the thread that runs through the other places that she lives: Germany and Norway, then finally back to the United States.

 If you've seen the movie Julie and Julia, much of the information in this book feels familiar, as Nora Ephron leaned heavily on this book for her screenplay.

From the New York Times:
Child also did a lot for France — and the American palate — by introducing French cuisine to American homes. But this book, written with her husband's great-nephew, Alex Prud'homme, before Child's death at 91 in August 2004, is really a love story: she loved Paul Child, 10 years her senior; she loved France; she loved French cooking; and she loved life. Listen to her: "The sweetness and generosity and politeness and gentleness and humanity of the French had shown me how lovely life can be if one takes time to be friendly." And a few pages later: "Oh, how I adored sweet and natural France, with its human warmth, wonderful smells, graciousness, coziness and freedom of spirit." 

I liked reading about her love affair with food, with France (Paris and then the south of France), and with her husband Paul, who seemed to have a generous heart and was very supportive of her endeavors (I love the photo on the original cover of the book, on the right. It is from one of their Valentine's Day cards, preferring to send those out instead of Christmas Cards.)

One thing I did find interesting is the references to "bilious stomach" and dieting and portions in this book.  Seems Julia and her husband Paul balanced their sumptious meals with leaner, lighter fare on other days.  Makes sense. This is a pretty fast read and I much enjoyed it.

I think about the list of cooking blogs I have now on my Google Reader (including my own as well as my daughter Barbara's) and have to think that Julia's enthusiasm for cooking from scratch has played a role in this burst of food writing.  I cooked from scratch for many years, and nearly every recipe began with: "Thaw one pound of hamburger. . ." the assumption being that everyone had a pound of hamburger in their freezer--and we did.

My friend Judy and I were discussing this last night and we both realized that we now rarely cook with hamburger.  Our tastes seemed to have changed (last night I just read Cooking With Dorie's discourse on butter, and now am going to track down "cultured butter" to see if it's similar to the butter I had in France on my Paul sandwich), and we're more adventurous with more time and more money to spend in the direction of cooking.

I don't think she and I cook as much as we did when we both had children growing up around us--we just cook differently.  A home-cooked meal two or three times a week, leftovers or a visit to a restaurant the rest of the time.


alotalot said...

I really loved "Julie and Julia". What a great movie. I thought about picking this book up, but haven't. Maybe I should. I htink Julia Child is a very interesting person. I have been watching her PBS show recently, again probably dusted off thanks to the movie, and really enjoying her demonstrations. I certainly don't cook dinner that like very often. Her regular dinners seem like entertaining meals to me, not everyday.

Judy said...

I'm amazed at how lovingly Julia speaks of the French, and apparently how they loved her back. That's not MY impression of the French! She must have been extraordinary. It is really wonderful to see the renewed interest in cooking. For too many years it has been all about bigger-faster-cheaper.

I love the "bilious stomach" phrase. I'm going to adopt that one.