Today would have been Julia Child’s 104th birthday.
(Of course, it had to fall on a holiday Monday when all the butchers and fish mongers in Paris are closed, meaning my sole meunière and boeuf bourguignon celebrations must wait for tomorrow. But, as she would say, tant pis !)
The first time I wrote about Julia was only a few months before I set out on my own life in France, an adventure that began almost exactly two years ago. It has come with many ups and downs as all expat lives do, but also so many opportunities I never would have experienced otherwise.
I’ve always wanted to live in Julia’s Paris—the Paris that loses power sporadically, the Paris where Marie de Quatre Saisons can be relied on at the market for produce year-round (now, we have Carrefour for that, which I imagine is significantly less charming), the Paris where you can get a truly excellent meal for what turns out to be under $10.
Yet as I re-read “My Life in France“* most recently, I realized that I didn’t need all the things in France to be the same as it was in 1948 when Paul and Julia docked at Le Havre. In this instance, my time-travel device is experiencing France and Paris with the same fervor and enthusiasm that Julia did nearly 70 years ago, appreciating a culture so different from that in which she was raised—and taking the hurdles with grace and a glass of Pouilly Fumé.
The passage reverberating in my mind the most over the past few days was one that I listed as one of my favorites before I even arrived France—“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 something in France that, I think, hasn’t changed in the past 70 years. I’ve just returned to Paris from two weeks in the countryside, where I was welcomed by strangers to share meals and go to music festivals and explore the smallest cities in France that I had never heard of. By the time I left, the woman who worked at the tourism office, the cashier at the grocery store, and the woman who ran a local restaurant all recognized me and greeted me as if I were an old friend.
It reminded me of something I heard a few years ago, that French people are like coconuts with friendship—hard on the outside, but once you get in you’re there for life (Americans, if you are curious, are peaches…read into that as you will).
Bref, my new method of channeling Julia isn’t going on a pilgrimage to all of her favorite shops or to the restaurants that may be long forgotten**; rather, it is to live in the Paris I live in, and enjoy it with the same exuberance that she did. My first stop? The market. ♦
*If you haven’t read this, you must. Stop everything, and go read it. Even if you don’t live in France, even if you’ve never been—her book is such an inspiration for anyone who ever felt called to follow their passion and was willing to work hard to get it.
**Alright, well, with the exception of my trips to E. Dehillerin to buy kitchen supplies and Rouen to eat sole meunière—but those are musts, right?
Photos: Julia/AP, Me/Stephanie Ospina ♥