Happy 100th, Julia
It’s been a long, long time since I last posted—I’ve been busy revising my new novel, working on essays, teaching classes, and raising the kids. What better day to start posting again than Julia Child’s hundredth birthday?
One of my favorite books that I’ve read in the last few years is Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France, co-written with her grand-nephew, Alex Prud’homme. It’s a beautiful book—it’s not just the story of Julia’s life; it tells the tale of an artistic apprenticeship. The book describes, with a sense of joy so palpable that the pages nearly shake with it, how Julia discovered her true calling late in life (she didn’t start cooking seriously until her late thirties), and how she spent a decade completing her book, despite setback after setback.
I equally loved As Always, Julia, a collection of the correspondence between Julia and her friend Avis DeVoto. DeVoto acted as a sort of literary agent for Julia, counseling her through her multiple rejections and encouraging her to never lose faith. If not for some good luck and a few random twists of fate, Mastering the Art of French Cooking never would’ve seen the light of day. Even Alfred Knopf himself was reluctant to publish it.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from My Life in France, about something Julia learned from one of her earliest teachers:
“Although [Chef Bugnard] must have made this dish several thousand times, he always took great pride and pleasure in his performance. He insisted that one pay attention, learn the correct technique, and that one enjoy one’s cooking—‘Yes, Madame Child, fun!’ he’d say. ‘Joy!’ It was a remarkable lesson. No dish, not even the humble scrambled egg, was too much trouble for him. ‘You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made,’ he said. ‘Even after you eat it, it stays with you—always.'”
Happy birthday, Julia.