Sunday, October 21, 2007

Delicious Reading: My Life in France

I'm too young to really know who Julia Child is. Her esteemed book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, came out way before my time, and no one in my family even owned a copy. Her famous television show, The French Chef, is no longer really aired, and the only impression that I had of it was watching the Muppets parody it and make fun of her cavorting around the kitchen with her high-pitched voice.

But the more I immerse myself in foodie culture, the more her name pops up as more than just a cultural icon with a goofy voice. Jacques Pepin writes about his friendship with her, and how he wished he had come up with the idea to write her book before she did. Julie Powell devotes an entire year of her life to cooking every one of her original recipes, in an attempt to capture her joie de vivre, and allow herself to be inspired by her approach to life. Adam Roberts writes about understanding what made her so great when he rents her DVDs from Netflix, and how she really paved the way for so much that we see on TV today.

So I found myself ready to learn more about this supposedly remarkable woman. Who was she? What was her story? Finally, granted my wish, and My Life in France, which she co-wrote with her husband's nephew, Alex Prud'homme, arrived on my doorstep.

From page one, I was entranced. The book chronicles the years that Julia and her husband Paul spent in France while he was working for the US government, and tells of how, by falling into and embracing the French culture, she found herself.

She was not young. She married for the first time in her late thirties. She was not beautiful. The book is peppered with pictures of the two of them, and I searched each one closely for attractive features. None. They didn't have children. They moved around constantly. I found that all of these things only made her seem more extraordinary, especially given the time that the book takes place, when women didn't wait that late to get married and certainly didn't dig into careers later in life. She seems to be such an intriguing combination of plain and brilliant. How wonderful.

Her descriptions of her life made my heart swell and nearly brought tears to my eyes. She and her husband were so in love, so inspiring. Their attitudes about the joys of life, through food and art and friendships... I couldn't decide whether to plow through the book, or to take is slowly, drinking in all of the rich scenarios and letting the attitudes marinate inside of me.

I admired her hard work - I had no idea how much time and painstaking research went into that now-legendary cookbook. I related to her relationship with her father, which became more and more strained as she continued to grow and experience different cultures and form her own opinions. I envied her relationship with her husband, who continually supported and helped her through her culinary endeavors.

More than anything, though, the book inspired me to keep living life to the fullest. Work hard. Reach for things. Find who your family is and love them. And savor... hmmm, savor... Actually, that's it. Just savor.


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