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My Life in France
Cover of My Life in France
My Life in France
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In her own words, here is the captivating, bestselling story of Julia Child's formative years in France, where she found "her true calling." Although she would later singlehandedly create a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, Julia was not always a master chef. Indeed, when she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Paul, who was to work for the USIS, 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 with her newfound passion for cooking and teaching. Julia's unforgettable story—struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook, a wonderful, nearly fifty-year long marriage that took the Childs across the globe—unfolds with the spirit so key to Julia's success as a chef and a writer, brilliantly capturing one of America's most endearing personalities.

In her own words, here is the captivating, bestselling story of Julia Child's formative years in France, where she found "her true calling." Although she would later singlehandedly create a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, Julia was not always a master chef. Indeed, when she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Paul, who was to work for the USIS, 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 with her newfound passion for cooking and teaching. Julia's unforgettable story—struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook, a wonderful, nearly fifty-year long marriage that took the Childs across the globe—unfolds with the spirit so key to Julia's success as a chef and a writer, brilliantly capturing one of America's most endearing personalities.

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  • Chapter One Foreword_In August 2004, Julia Child and I sat in her small, lush garden in Montecito, California, talking about her life. She was thin and a bit stooped, but more vigorous than she'd been in weeks. We were in the midst of writing this book together. When I asked her what she remembered about Paris in the 1950s, she recalled that she had learned to cook everything from snails to wild boar at the Cordon Bleu; that marketing in France had taught her the value of "les human relations"; she lamented that in her day the American housewife had to juggle cooking the soup and boiling the diapers—adding, "if she mixed the two together, imagine what a lovely combination that would make!"The idea for My Life in France had been gestating since 1969, when her husband, Paul, sifted through hundreds of letters that he and Julia had written his twin brother, Charles Child (my grandfather), from France in 1948–1954. Paul suggested creating a book from the letters about their favorite, formative years together. But for one reason or another, the book never got written. Paul died in 1994, aged ninety-two. Yet Julia never gave up on the idea, and would often talk about her intention to write "the France book." She saw it, in part, as a tribute to her husband, the man who had swept her off to Paris in the first place.I was a professional writer, and had long wanted to work on a collaborative project with Julia. But she was self-reliant, and for years had politely resisted the idea. In December 2003, she once again mentioned "the France book," in a wistful tone, and I again offered to assist her. She was ninety-one, and her health had been waxing and waning. This time she said, "All right, dearie, maybe we should work on it together."My job was simply to help Julia tell her story, but it wasn't always easy. Though she was a natural performer, she was essentially a private person who didn't like to reveal herself. We started slowly, began to work in sync, and eventually built a wonderfully productive routine. For a few days every month, I'd sit in her living room asking questions, reading from family letters, and listening to her stories. At first I taped our conversations, but when she began to poke my tape recorder with her long fingers, I realized it was distracting her, and took notes instead. The longer we talked about "little old France," the more she remembered, often with vivid intensity—"Ooh, those lovely roasted, buttery French chickens, they were so good and chickeny!"Many of our best conversations took place over a meal, on a car ride, or during a visit to a farmers' market. Something would trigger a memory, and she'd suddenly tell me about how she learned to make baguettes in Paris, or bouillabaisse in Marseille, or how to survive a French dinner party—"Just speak very loudly and quickly, and state your position with utter conviction, as the French do, and you'll have a marvelous time!"Almost all of the words in these pages are Julia's or Paul's. But this is not a scholarly work, and at times I have blended their voices. Julia encouraged this approach, pointing out that she and Paul often signed their letters "PJ" or "Pulia," as if they were two halves of one person. I wrote some of the exposition and transitions, and in so doing tried to emulate Julia's idiosyncratic word choices—"Plop!," "Yuck!," "Woe!," "Hooray!" Once I had gathered enough material, I would write up a vignette; she would avidly read it, correct my French, and add things as they occurred to her in small, rightward-slanting handwriting. She loved this process, and was an exacting editor. "This book energizes me!" she declared.Julia and I shared a sense of...
About the Author-
  • Julia Child was born in Pasadena, California. She graduated from Smith College and worked for the OSS during World War II; afterward she lived in Paris, studied at the Cordon Bleu, and taught cooking with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, with whom she wrote the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). In 1963, Boston's WGBH launched The French Chef television series, which made Julia Child a national celebrity, earning her the Peabody Award in 1965 and an Emmy in 1966. Several public television shows and numerous cookbooks followed. She died in 2004.
    Alex Prud'homme is Julia Child's great-nephew and the coauthor of her autobiography, My Life in France, which was adapted into the movie Julie & Julia. He is also the author of The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century, Hydrofracking: What Everyone Needs to Know, and The Cell Game, and he is the coauthor (with Michael Cherkasky) of Forewarned: Why the Government Is Failing to Protect Us—and What We Must Do to Protect Ourselves. Prud'homme's journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Time, and People.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 13, 2006
    With Julia Child's death in 2004 at age 91, her grandnephew Prud'homme (The Cell Game
    ) completed this playful memoir of the famous chef's first, formative sojourn in France with her new husband, Paul Child, in 1949. The couple met during WWII in Ceylon, working for the OSS, and soon after moved to Paris, where Paul worked for the U.S. Information Service. Child describes herself as a "rather loud and unserious Californian," 36, six-foot-two and without a word of French, while Paul was 10 years older, an urbane, well-traveled Bostonian. Startled to find the French amenable and the food delicious, Child enrolled at the Cordon Bleu and toiled with increasing zeal under the rigorous tutelage of éminence grise Chef Bugnard. "Jackdaw Julie," as Paul called her, collected every manner of culinary tool and perfected the recipes in her little kitchen on rue de l'Université ("Roo de Loo"). She went on to start an informal school with sister gourmandes Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, who were already at work on a French cookbook for American readers, although it took Child's know-how to transform the tome—after nine years, many title changes and three publishers—into the bestselling Mastering the Art of French Cooking
    (1961). This is a valuable record of gorgeous meals in bygone Parisian restaurants, and the secret arts of a culinary genius. Photos. First serial in the New York Times Magazine and Bon Appétit.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from March 15, 2006
    Child was a seminal figure in introducing French cuisine to Americans via her award-winning television show The French Chef. Started months before her death in 2004 and completed by her late husband's grandnephew, this memoir captures Child's years in France from 1948 to 1954 as a "six-foot-two-inch, thirty-six-year-old, rather loud and unserious Californian" who fell in love with la belle France. She met her husband Paul during World War II; they married in 1946. Two years later, Paul took a job in France promoting French-American relations, and his wife, wisely, went along. This work recalls her reasons for wanting to learn to cook and details the genesis of her television show. Accessible, passionate, and always touching, this is a sumptuous offering from an immortal chef, a magical woman who feasted on life and found it quite sweeta recipe for living fully, a lesson to us. Recommended for large and medium collections.Steven G. Fullwood, Schomburg Ctr. Lib., New York

    Copyright 2006 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • The New York Times

    "A delight."

  • The Washington Post "What a joy!"
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer "Endlessly engaging."
  • Entertainment Weekly "Inspiring."
  • Christian Science Monitor "Delighful and ebulliently written. . . . Her joy just about jumps off the books pages."
  • Chicago Sun-Times "Lively, infectious. . . . Her elegant but unfussy prose pulls the reader into her stories."
  • San Francisco Chronicle

    "Captivating. . . . Her marvelously distinctive voice is present on every page."
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