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Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child…

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child (2012)

by Bob Spitz

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I won this book through the first-reads program.

I knew very little about [a:Julia Child|3465|Julia Child|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1345004268p2/3465.jpg] prior to reading this book. I had heard rumor of her work in the secret service, and I had seen one or two of her cooking programs... beyond this, I knew nothing. The movie Julie and Julia didn't really offer much in the way of information about her life - but still, it piqued my curiosity enough to make me quite happy to win this book.

It is always a joy to read something written by a master of the craft, and [a:Bob Spitz|20125|Bob Spitz|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1342032817p2/20125.jpg] is certainly a master biographer. The [b:Beatles|261971|Beatles |Lars Saabye Christensen|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1292886222s/261971.jpg|253928] biography that [a:Bob Spitz|20125|Bob Spitz|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1342032817p2/20125.jpg] wrote has gotten much praise, so it is natural that his biography on [a:Julia Child|3465|Julia Child|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1345004268p2/3465.jpg] should do the same. From the very outset one can see his love of the lady dripping off the pages, so it was no surprise when he admitted the crush he harbored on her at the end.

Still, the biography held nothing back. The traits that made [a:Julia Child|3465|Julia Child|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1345004268p2/3465.jpg] a national institution were also the ones that made her quite eccentric. [a:Bob Spitz|20125|Bob Spitz|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1342032817p2/20125.jpg] highlights her love of men, her love of eating, her distinctive sense of humor, and her tireless work ethic. He explains her liberal bias, and the many troubles that she encountered both while working on her television shows and in the writing of her many books. [a:Bob Spitz|20125|Bob Spitz|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1342032817p2/20125.jpg] summed up her life beautifully, the good, the bad, and the utterly delicious. What more could you ask?

I think that the true measure of this book is the fact that I am not only recommending it to those that I am close to, but actually lending my copy to them. Not only do I want to discuss Julia's life with them, but I also want to visit her kitchen in the Smithsonian Museum of American History to pay my own tribute to this cultural icon. What better a feeling could this book have possibly elicited?

Bon appetit. ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
Had I not listened to this on audio while working, there is no way I would have made it through this. Interesting for the most part, but way too long. ( )
  viviennestrauss | Apr 2, 2018 |
I love Julia Child (Is there anyone in America who doesn't?) and this biography just made me love her more. From her pampered childhood in Pasadena, California to her rebellions against a restricted upper middle-class life, to her rather late in life embrace of French cuisine, she remains a likable and upstanding woman.

Julia Child looked at life squarely in the face and refused to accept defeat in anything she had put her mind to. That's the way she lived her life - right up until it was her turn to "fall of the raft" (as she called death)

This was a joy of a book to read. ( )
  etxgardener | Nov 13, 2017 |
In depth, well researched biography of Julia Child.

Focuses on her development as a mostly directionless young woman to a strong writer and business woman. At times she's contributory between who she wants her readers and views to see her and and who she really is underneath the facade.

This was a difficult read, at times, because Julia Child was truly a product of her time. Her personal views on equal rights for women, people of color and the LGBT community, as well as her language make it difficult to like her at times from a contemporary place. That said, she was a product of her time; as a reader, viewer and home cook I have to give her credit for changing the landscape of American cooking. She elevated chefs in a way I don't think anyone else could have and she made it possible for average people to share there love of food, cooking and food related products on the blogs of today. ( )
  fablibrarian | Nov 7, 2017 |
What a woman.

I've long been intrigued by Julia Child and not only because we share a name. I grew up watching her cook on public television, and her high-pitched, warbly fluting voice (a result of unusually long vocal cords, Spitz reveals) and her tall (6 feet 3 inches tall), ramrod-straight posture made a definite impression. She did not manage to inspire in me a passion to learn how to cook, sadly, but she was the beginning of my fascination in watching other people cook.

What I didn't grasp at the time, of course, was just how revolutionary she was. She along with James Beard revolutionized the way Americans look at food and food preparation — not to mention public television itself, which was in its infancy when her show, The French Chef began airing in 1963. That and her seminal cookbook [Mastering the Art of French Cooking] were unlike anything that had ever been seen before in this country. And to think she didn't even embark on that career until she was in her 40s.

Fair warning: This is a huge book, more than 700 pages when you include the acknowledgments, notes, index, etc. But it is not at all a slow read. The first 450 pages especially just flew by. I hated having to stop reading to go to work in the morning, and could not wait to get back to it at night. Author Spitz takes us from pre-birth to death with the amazing Julia, and you'd be hard-pressed to think of anything he left out.

It turns out that the outgoing personality we saw on TV was the real Julia: She was always gregarious, prone to troublemaking as a child, and fearless. But she didn't know what she wanted her life's work to be — it was easier for her to figure out what she didn't want to be, which was a conventional housewife. In the 1930s, that was a tall order. Before she latched on to cooking as her life's work (that happened when she and her husband were posted to Paris after World War II), she had a whole other career as a senior civilian intelligence officer with the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA) during World War II, posted first in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and then China and was in charge of processing and routing all the intelligence reports coming in from the field of the Pacific theater. Even so, she chafed against what she thought of as "filing, filing, filing" and still longed for more.

I was pleased to read in the acknowledgments that Spitz knew Julia Child personally, having accompanied her to Sicily on a trip while he was profiling her for a magazine. And she knew of his intention to write a biography of her and planned to assist him, although she died before that collaboration got off the ground. Still, Spitz interviewed many of the prominent people in the Childs' life and made extensive use of primary sources such as letters and other documents that Julia donated to the archives at Harvard University. The book is well-grounded in evidence-based fact, and he makes no attempt to sugarcoat or gloss over some of the more difficult elements in Julia's life or personality.

The only quibble I could make is that the tone is a bit too breezy and gee-whiz for my taste. He could have reduced his exclamation-point usage by one-third and still expressed an appropriate amount of enthusiasm, for example. And he occasionally got fixated on certain words or phrases that made the reading a bit odd, like "finchy," which seems to mean "touchy or sensitive" about something or someone. Again and again he refers to "Paul's finchy nature" and "audiences were particularly finchy when it came to drinking alcohol" and women who were "finchy types with degrees in stupefying disciplines." I don't really know what the word means because it's not in any dictionary I've consulted. It was a weird tic but not enough to mar enjoyment of the book overall.

Julia Child, for all her patrician accent and affinity for France, was as American as apple pie. Her life story is an amazing journey, one that I think would be enjoyed even by people who have never contemplated the proper way to bone a duck or what the "correct" types of fish are for true bouillabaisse.

Bon appétit! ( )
  rosalita | May 20, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307272222, Hardcover)

Featured Essay: Author Bob Spitz on Dearie

Because Julia Child is such a familiar and beloved presence in our culture, it is amazing how much there was left to learn about her. Julie and Julia, along with Julia's lovely memoir My Life in France only scratched the surface of this remarkable and fascinating woman who actually launched PBS (really!) and defined the American palate. For much of her adolescence and throughout her twenties, Julia was something of a lost soul. She burned with a desire to have an impact on the world but had no idea how to make that happen or what field she might excel in. It disappointed her that she was nothing more than what she called "a social butterfly," without a goal. "I felt I had particular and unique gifts," she wrote in her diary, "that I was meant for something, and was like no one else." How right she was! But she weathered many misadventures before those gifts began to materialize.

Oddly, everything began to coalesce for Julia in Ceylon, of all places. At the outbreak of World War II, still without a sense of purpose, she volunteered for government service and was shipped overseas as a member of the OSS, America's burgeoning spy agency that later became the CIA. She worked in its Registry, under "Wild Bill" Donovan, and was responsible for the location and movements of every U.S. spy operating in the Southeast Asia theater.

In Ceylon, Julia also met her future husband, Paul Child, who worked in a capacity similar to hers. Initially, Julia had had a hard time finding true love--it took her awhile. Back home, the heir to the Los Angeles Times had proposed to her on several occasions, but he struck Julia as too bland for her outsized spirit. She was a big person (over 6'3") with a big personality and couldn't be contained in the expected role of "the little woman." I found it very moving when she finally found true love, although she was still adrift about what her life purpose would be.

A lunch in France changed everything. It was a powerful moment when she hit on her true calling at the age of forty. In the book, I delve into the extraordinary path Julia followed to create eye-poppingly delicious food and introduce it to an American public that was starving for a new, imaginative and creative way to cook. From there, it was through engaging force of her once-troublesome outsized personality that she went on to have a profound impact on the way people eat--and live.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:08 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

It is rare for someone to emerge in America who can change our attitudes, our beliefs, and our very culture. It is even rarer when that someone is a middl0--aged, six-foot three-inch woman whose first exposure to an unsuspecting public is cooking an omelet on a hot plate on a local TV station. And yet, that is exactly what Julia Child did. The warble voiced doyenne of television cookery became an iconic cult figure and joyous rule breaker as she touched off the food revolution that has gripped America for more than fifty years. In this biography, the Julia we know and love comes to life. In it the author provides a portrait of one of the most fascinating and influential Americans of our time, a woman known to all, yet known by only a few. At its heart, this biography is a story about a woman's search for her own unique expression. Julia Child was a directionless, gawky young woman who ran off halfway around the world to join a spy agency during World War II. She eventually settled in Paris, where she learned to cook and collaborated on the writing of what would become Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a book that changed the food culture of America. She was already fifty when The French Chef went on the air, at a time in our history when women were not making those leaps. Julia became the first educational TV star, virtually launching PBS as we know it today; her marriage to Paul Child formed a decades long love story that was romantic, touching, and quite extraordinary. A fearless, ambitious, supremely confident woman, Julia took on all the pretensions that embellished tony French cuisine and fricasseed them to a fare-thee-well, paving the way for everything that has happened since in American cooking, from TV dinners and Big Macs to sea urchin foam and the Food Channel. Julia Child's story, however, is more than the tale of a talented woman and her sumptuous craft. It is also a saga of America's coming of age and growing sophistication, from the Depression Era to the turbulent sixties and the excesses of the eighties to the greening of the American kitchen. Julia had an effect on and was equally affected by the baby boom, the sexual revolution, and the start of the women's liberation movement. On the centenary of her birth, Julia finally gets the biography she richly deserves. An in-depth, intimate narrative, full of fresh information and insights, this biography is the story of one of our most fascinating and beloved figures.… (more)

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