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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Life In France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme, 2006, * * * * *

Most Americans know of Julia Child via the parodies of her cooking show --- a frowsy, big-boned matron with a trill in her voice, hacking up a chicken with more zest than is called for, most likely because she's been chugging the cooking sherry. Well, that was, on occasion, a fair take on Julia Child, the jolly chef who taught her fellow citizens the joy of French cooking on public television. But Julia Child was much more than a precursor of Martha Stewart. She was a revolutionary who had the great good fortune to find herself living in Paris with no job and nothing more compelling than a tentative interest in cooking. She signed up for classes at Cordon Bleu, got hooked, and soon found herself, with two friends, working on a book we now take for granted but was then unimagined --- an authoritative guide to French cooking for Americans. Published 40 years ago, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One has never gone out of print and it never will. Julia Child died in 2004. Of her 11 books, none was a memoir but she kept scribbles and letters, and at the end of her life, she began to shape this book with her grandnephew. Like almost everything she touched, My Life in France is a triumph --- insightful, poetic, deadly accurate about people, and, above all, tasty.  But this is not a celebrity memoir. This book is called My Life in France for a reason --- the passages at Julia and Paul Child's home in the South of France lift off the page and surround you with laughter, wit and joy.  This is a book about life - a wise life, a life of beauty, art, invention, and love. You can learn a lot from a life like that.

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