Earlier this year, I saw Julie & Julia, starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. Although I wasn’t a fan of the Amy Adams storyline, I was completely riveted and charmed by every reference to Julia Child, whose enthusiasm and curiosity was wonderfully boundless. While trapped indoors during a horrific winter, I watched this movie at least three times in one weekend. Soon after, I was searching for a copy of My Life in France, Child’s autobiography, at the library.
If I had to use one word to describe Julia Child: adorable. Of course, that’s not to forget talented, disciplined, and unwavering, but adorable tops the list of adjectives. Her way of describing life experiences was completely delightful. The food and cities came to life with every caricature and photograph. I was positively charmed by Paul Child as well, whose encouragement and support was beyond impressive, considering the generation in which they lived. Not only that, he was quite the romantic, and he created elaborate Valentine’s Day cards on a regular basis, as you may remember from the movie.
Paris and Marseille, Bonn, and Oslo. Julia was a well-traveled woman, being the wife of a diplomat, but she approached everything like an innocent child. Even unpleasant experiences transformed into opportunities to learn and understand local customs. Health problems blended into the landscape of their life, pushed to the periphery, because both she and Paul were active participants in their own lives. He spent hours on art and photography, wine and food, letter writing and, for a while, martial arts. She, on the other hand, invested most of her free time in the kitchen (at home, or on television, or in her small property in the south of France), tirelessly devising ways to translate French cooking for the American cook, editing and proofreading her 750-page magnum opus, and writing countless letters to her many relatives and culinary contacts across the world.
I could hardly choose my favourite part, or chapter, but I loved hearing about Paul and Julia’s correspondence. Letter writing has become a novelty in the 21st century, but it was an absolute necessity in the 1950s, when modes of communication were still very rustic, especially in Europe, when it was still recuperating from World War II. Julia relied heavily on her trusty Royal typewriter to churn out various correspondence and recipes. Nothing was instant; progress and information took time. In My Life in France, Julia mentions that Paul took letter writing very seriously, and sat down to compose each one thoughtfully, and that her loyal pen pal, Avis DeVoto, sent pages and pages at a time. Perhaps I’m romanticizing it, but the slow(er) pace of life appeals to me immensely.
As I read the epilogue, I felt sad knowing that Julia didn’t live to see the publication of this book, but impressed by her incredible zest for life. It’s an overused phrase, but “zest for life” is the most accurate description possible. That and, bon appétit!
Instead of wine or cheese, this time I experimented with an apricot compote. While browsing an Italian specialty market, trying to decide between green, red or black olives, I found a display of wonderful jams and other preserves from France. And so I chose the apricot, slathered a spoonful on a slice of rye toast, and loved every bite!
Have you attempted any of Julia Child’s recipes? Were the results successful?