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My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex…

My Life in France (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme

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3,7721621,381 (4.15)248
Title:My Life in France
Authors:Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
Info:Knopf (2005), Edition: 1ST, Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:autobiography, domestic science

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My Life in France by Julia Child (2004)


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Interesting. I can't say I was crazy about the style, or Julia herself, for that matter, but her enthusiasm and energy came across clearly (relentlessly!) and I found her story to be, mostly, engaging.

Though I'm not actually interested in French food as a general thing, I do remember Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking as a fixture on my mom's cookbook shelf, and I find the social history aspect of the thing – the growing curiosity and excitement about gourmet cooking alongside the increasing availability use of convenience foods among American home cooks in the 50's and early 60's – an appealing subject.

As I read I found myself swinging between aggravation at her brash, self-congratulatory tone and admiration for her passion, curiosity, and drive. I can only imagine how exhausting she must have been to work with, but what a dynamo! And there were several points where my irritation at her “holier than thou” attitude about her father or others was mitigated by her fuller explanation of circumstances – the McCarthy witch hunts really were awful, and the racist, anti-Semitic attitudes of her father and his country club set were instrumental in allowing these un-American persecutions to last as long as they did. Her letter to a McCarthyite committee member at Smith College, Child's alma mater, who was recklessly communist-hunting among the school's professors, inclined me to forgive her a fair number of condescending generalizations about Americans:
”In the blood-heat of pursuing the enemy, many people are forgetting what we are fighting for. We are fighting for our hard-won liberty and freedom, for our Constitution and the due processes of our laws; and for the right to differ in ideas, religion, and politics. And I am convinced that in your zeal to fight against our enemies, you, too, have forgotten what you are fighting for.”

As I said, I'm not a “foodie,” but there were places where Julia's lovingly detailed descriptions of the taste, texture, and smell of meals made me (briefly) feel like getting up to go mess around in the kitchen. Multi-course, complicated meals aren't my thing, but visions of luscious slices of beef wrapped in delicate buttery pastry were dancing in my head. I've never seen her on television, but I'm going to look for some episodes of her show now – her excitement about delicious food really comes across in this book. The challenge of writing down complicated recipes in a way that fully explains but does not intimidate was something I'd not thought much of but learned to appreciate here, and also the issue of translating recipes for readers whose ingredients may be different from the ones the author is using (French flour vs American flour, French chocolate vs American, etc.). Who'd have thought?

Still, there were several aspects of the book I found annoying. The writing itself probably well conveys Julia's storytelling style – it is very breezy, enthusiastic, and sincere. The way the book was written – Julia told stories to Alex Prud-homme and he wrote them up and showed them to her to approve – is very evident. This offers immediacy, but also gives a certain “jumpiness.” Especially in the case of Julia's relationship with her collaborator, Simone Beck, she shifts between describing Simca as a dear friend and valuable partner to claiming that she was careless, uncooperative, and unreliable. Sometimes things are mentioned which seem as though they will have some relevance to the unfolding story, and then they never do. There are some things that struck me as odd that may simply be a function of a ninety-two year old looking back on her life. She describes a restaurant dinner that she and Paul had in France: “Here we were, two young people obviously of rather modest circumstances, and we had been treated with the utmost cordiality, as if we were honored guests. The service was deft and understated, and the food was spectacular.” You might think that they were in their early twenties at this time, but actually Paul was 46 and Julia was 36. And, similarly, she tells about her younger sister visiting them and making obnoxious prank calls to Parisian shops. To hear Julia describe it she clearly thought her sister was engaging in adorably youthful hijinx, but her sister was 31 at the time. In places her dated slang also was a distraction. Still, the story of how an aimless new bride developed into an internationally known cook and author, and how she became an iconic figure on television, rises above these peculiarities and flaws and offers some interesting insights into American social history. Three and a half stars. ( )
  meandmybooks | Nov 17, 2016 |
But not with the movie cover. Lovely lovely book about following your bliss. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
A very interesting tale, somewhat tritely told. How much of it is true, who can say? It covers most of Julia Child's adult life, but her early time in Europe is covered in the most detail. Her husband, Paul Child, was an essential part of her career, bringing his diplomatic and artistic skills to the furtherance of her television career.

It is exhausting listening to descriptions of the baroque, almost mediaeval preparation and presentation of meats in France. ( )
  themulhern | Oct 9, 2016 |
A fun, lively look at Julia Child's early years in Paris. Captures well the excitement of learning a new language and culture. ( )
  mjspear | Jul 31, 2016 |
My Life in France – Julia Child/Alex Prud’homme
3 stars

At the end of her successful, active life, Julia Child collaborated with her great-nephew to write this memoir of her life in Paris following WWII. Her main concern is to relate how she came to write Mastering the Art of French cooking with her two collaborators. Along the way, she provides a look at life in Paris. She also pays tribute to the talents and patience of her husband Paul. There’s a certain amount of name dropping and many wonderful descriptions of wonderful meals. Like many memoirs, I found the first part of the book to be very absorbing, but it became more tedious as it progressed.

( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 160 (next | show all)
For me, reading Julia Child’s memoir felt like going home.
"My Life in France," written with Alex Prud'homme, is Child's exuberant, affectionate and boundlessly charming account of that transformation. It chronicles, in mouth-watering detail, the meals and the food markets that sparked her interest in French cooking, and her growing appreciation of all things French."
added by lorax | editNew York Times, William Grimes (Apr 8, 2006)

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Julia Childprimary authorall editionscalculated
Prud'Homme, AlexAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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This is a book about some of the things I have loved most in life; my husband, Paul Child; la belle France; and the many pleasures of cooking and eating.
Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile - and learn from her mistakes.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307277690, Paperback)

Book Description

Julia Child single handedly awakened America to the pleasures of good cooking with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, but as she reveals in this bestselling memoir, she didn't know the first thing about cooking when she landed in France.

Indeed, when she first arrived in 1948 with her husband, Paul, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever. Julia's unforgettable story unfolds with the spirit so key to her success as a cook and teacher and writer, brilliantly capturing one of the most endearing American personalities of the last fifty years.

Julie & Julia is now a major motion picture (releasing in August 2009) starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child. It is partially based on her memoir, My Life in France. Enjoy these images from the film, and click the thumbnails to see larger images.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:15 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Here is the captivating story of Julia Child's years in France, where she fell in love with French food and found "her true calling." From the moment she and her husband Paul, who worked for the USIS, arrived in the fall of 1948, Julia had an awakening that changed her life. Soon this tall, outspoken gal from Pasadena, California, who didn't speak a word of French and knew nothing about the country, was steeped in the language, chatting with purveyors in the local markets, and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu. She teamed up with two fellow gourmettes, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, to help them with a book on French cooking for Americans. Filled with her husband's beautiful black-and-white photographs as well as family snapshots, this memoir is laced with wonderful stories about the French character, particularly in the world of food, and the way of life that Julia embraced so wholeheartedly. Bon appétit!--From publisher description.… (more)

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