I have been slowly savoring Julia Child’s memoir for months now. It’s hard to finish books you only read for 10 minutes a day—especially when they are 400 pages long. Last Tuesday I finally finished it, with perfect timing (but more on that later!). As a writer, it was so interesting to study her voice and how she described life—especially food! Food is one of the hardest things for me to describe, even though it is one of my true loves, and she executes it perfectly. But…it did make me go looking for a good sole meunière recipe, and with all that butter, I was sick for days (much to my chagrin…I love butter).
Julia had a rare personality, and right from the start I was amazed with the integrity in which Alex Prud’Homme, her great nephew, was able to capture her voice. How inspiring she was, finding her passion in her mid-thirties and working hard to become a success. Unlike so many who just fall into their dreams (these people may not exist anywhere except my mind), Julia worked tirelessly on cultivating her skills, often seeking advice and guidance from experts and seasoned chefs, then using her knowledge to compile it all into an admirable, yet painstaking, book.
But more than examining her work ethic, the memoir also delves into something very near and dear to my heart (if you hadn’t already guessed)—France. She lived in Paris in a time and circumstance I will only ever be able to experience through books, making me yearn for the city without a Starbucks and McDo on every corner. While I am appreciative of many advances made in my favorite city as of late, I would so much like to live in her Paris: of markets instead of Franprix, French instead of English (I hated when French people heard my accent and decided it would be the perfect time to practice their English), and of authentic French cooking everywhere you looked, instead of KFCs and international food overwhelming the city.
I could go on for
hours days about how much I love-love-loved her memoir, but instead I’ll leave you with some of my favorite parts:
“I wandered the city, got lost, and found myself again.”
When I was in Paris, I was known as “that girl who always gets lost.” I refuse to hold a map in public in a foreign city (or any city really), at the risk of looking like a tourist or just generally like I don’t know where I am going. So, instead, I walk in circles for hours looking for familiar landmarks looking like (or at least trying to) I know exactly where I am…not too bad on the off chance that la Tour Eiffel is in your backyard.
I had come to the conclusion that I must really be French, only no one had ever informed me of this fact.
I have felt this way since I was 11.
How magnificent, to find my life’s calling, at long last!
Please let this happen to me, and soon! I am impatient.
The sweetness and generosity and politeness and gentleness and humanity of the French had shown me how lovely life can be if one takes the time to be friendly.
This is one of the points where I think she is spot on—the French have a bad rap with Americans, for reasons I don’t really understand. Sure, there are disgruntled citizens (in both countries, ahem), but most of the French people I have interacted with are kind and willing to help even the most fumbling of Americans (except that one rude cashier at Paul in Passy who wouldn’t give me my change). If it weren’t for the kindness of the French, I would probably still be calling boutielles (bottles) boîtes (boxes) and making other embarrassing rudimentary mistakes.
And the great lesson embedded in the book is that no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.
This is so so so true for not just cooking, but everything else in life, as well. Everything takes practice.
I’ve always felt that when I’m done with something I just walk away from it–fin!
Easier said than done, but a good thing to keep in mind. Julia is such an inspiration for not only people looking to try their hand in the kitchen (though you won’t find me making aspic anytime soon), but also for anyone seeking their great life passion and needing inspiration to go out in the world, fearlessly and servantless.
I could keep going, but instead go read the book and come back to me with your thoughts. Have you already read it? What did you think? ♦
“My Life in France”
by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme
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