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.

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17 thoughts on “Vacation Reading: My Life In France

  1. Yes, yes, yes!!! I found a copy of this wonderful book in a junk store, and consumed it. Although I did enjoy the movie quite a bit, I’ve known for a while that it’s Julia Child that appeals to me, and not Julie Powell. The long travail of the birth of their huge cook book was almost agonizing to read about. She was very devoted to it.

  2. Having recently started a new diet (and yes I need it to get me on to some decent eating habits) this sounds like the last book I need to read. I’ll have to wait for it until I’ve learned a little more control.

  3. Now I definitely have to read this book. I’ve always been of fan of Julia’s, watching her on TV as a child.
    Never read or cooked from MtAoFC, but I have her book The Way to Cook, and it is like my cooking bible.

  4. Ever since reading Julie and Julia I have wanted to read My Life in France. I love Julia Childs passion for good food. Hearing her describe meat filled dishes so beautifully almost makes my vegetarian mouth water. I’d say if there’s anyone who could convert me it would have to be her. I will now be hunting this book down sooner than later. Thanks for giving us a peek inside!

    Hope you enjoyed your vacation! I was pretty sure I wanted to visit Maine sometime in my life, now I am certain that it should be soon. : )

  5. Oh JoLynne…if you went to France and ate their food you would SOOOO want to tackle the recipes in the book. Well, I should say that I do not cook, so I would not, but OMG the food. I have never had better anywhere else in my life. Case closed. Mike and I are not foodies either, but he would probably agree. There is nothing like French Onion Soup…in France. LOL

  6. Not to be too much of a nitpick, but I think there are a couple of places where you mean Julia but have said Julie. I think in this case, it can cause a bit of confusion. 😉 One of these days I will get back to reading for fun.

  7. I’ll definitely look for this book at the library!

    I was just watching a 60 minutes piece the other day about the French Paradox. I think it was from 1991. They made it sound like the French have different genes than the Americans, but I don’t think that’s reality. Isn’t there a book about the French paradox?

    I’m finding that focusing on whole, real foods, and the process of making food from scratch is making me a foodie. And my husband doesn’t mind because he’s always been a bit of a foodie. We went to the Lancaster County Famers Market during July 4th weekend and all he could reminisce about was the days as a single guy when he would order meat from Alderfers and have them package it for the freezer. Just dropping a few hundred dollars each visit. Ah, those were the days….

    1. LOL. No it has nothing to do with genes. It has to do w people who have a food culture where they don’t snack or eat on the go or consume 20 oz bottles if high fructose corn syrup. Eating is a social act. they savor their meals and take small portions. They also do a lot of walking. It’s interesting to study the contrasts.

      1. You are totally right. I studied in France for a year and made lots of trips back afterwards to visit friends…(sigh – no time for that now, or money for that matter!). What I observed:

        1. They eat real foods. Think Michael Pollan’s Food Rules.
        2. They don’t snack between meals.
        3. They get natural exercise – like walking up the stairs. We once stayed in an apartment where we walked the steps every day – 113 of them. I will never forget. But it was totally worth the dinner we had that night.
        4. They enjoy and really savor their meals, which are definitely not fat free but are very delicious.

        now if I could only put these rules into practice! lol.

  8. I’ve never been much of a ‘foodie’ growing up but I remember when Julia was on PBS and I would stop everything (at like 7 or 8 years old!) and watch. She fascinated me with the way she was so relaxed while cooking….my own mother hated to cook & my dad still needs the microwave instruction manual in order to heat up leftovers.,..so ‘relaxed’ & ‘cooking’ did not go together in my house lol! I loved the movie Julie & Julia. In the last 3 years I’ve become much more aware of the food that goes in my body and how to make most things from scratch- I think I would love to read Julia’s cookbook not sure I’ll ever get around to it (reading isn’t something I have time for right now with a newborn & toddler!)

  9. I absolutely loved this book! I read it a year ago and can’t wait to download it to my kindle and re-read. It is SUCH a fantastic book…. Julia is so spunky, isn’t she?!

  10. I downloaded samples of both My Life in France and also Julie & Julia. Thanks for the recommendations!

  11. my daughter gave me the cookbook for christmas, it is just a cool thing to have. she gave it to me to commemorate the funtime we had seeing the J&J movie together, along with a copy of Julie & Julia.
    (my daughter is a sweetie)
    I love Julia. She was a treasure. I will never be a french chef, but love owning the book!! what fun!

  12. Loved the movie and definitely going to search out this book 🙂

    Last year my husband helpfully disposed of my freshly made chicken stock, and I still remember!

    Hope you are having a ball at Blogher – wished we could have met up – sigh…. 🙁

    Maybe you will just have to come to Ireland 🙂

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