Vacation Reading: My Life In France

After watching the movie Julie & Julia, I was thirsty for more Julia. My Life in France has been on my reading list for ages but I finally got around to reading it last week. Julia Child was a fascinating person, and her life was certainly book-worthy. I can see why Julie Powell fell in love with her and admired her character.

At one point in the book, she created an exceptional veal stock which she described as “the best and most careful stock I had ever made” and later “my precious, wonderful, unique, never-to-be-equaled veal stock.” She served it at a prestigious dinner party, and afterward, her husband and another gentleman from the party cleaned up the kitchen. When Julia discovered hours later that they had scraped the dirty plates into the pot containing the remains of her prized veal stock, she wanted to cry. If I had been in her shoes, I’d surely have lambasted my husband and held a grudge for days. But not Julia:

I sighed. There was no undoing what had been done, and I could only sob in my innermost self. I vowed never to mention it — or forget it.

I mean, really. How can you not love and admire this woman?

What I really enjoyed about the book, however, was the peek into French culture. With my recent food obsession, I’m constantly reading about the “French paradox” and this book was enlightening and inspiring.

I absolutely love this quote.  When Paul took Julia to lunch on one of her first days in France, she was shocked to see wine served at lunch.

In France, Paul explained, good cooking was regarded as a combination of national sport and high art, and wine was always served with lunch and dinner.  “The trick is moderation,” he said.

It sounds good, right? The funny thing is, as the book progressed, I learned that “moderation” meant a half bottle of wine for both lunch and dinner. And for long dinner parties? That was just getting started. There is definitely a cultural divide between us and the French, no doubt about that.

I’m dying to get MtAoFC out of the library and see if there are any recipes I’d have the gumption to try. I admit that after reading Julie & Julia, I had no desire to tackle the book. All the talk of aspic and pressed duck had me gagging. But after reading My Life in France, I expect there are some recipes that I’d like to try. And I’m just curious to read them. Julia spent weeks agonizing over each and every recipe in the book, testing and retesting, and evidently her instructions are unparalleled in their attention to detail.

The book is written in first person and it chronicles Julia’s life from the time she met Paul Child in her mid-thirties until they vacated their French home when she was in her seventies.  (They had long since moved back to the states but kept a home in France on a friend’s property for many years.) The more I read My Life in France, the more I wanted to EAT. And to visit France. I’ve never been.

This book is a must-read for anyone who loves food and enjoys a good autobiography.