December 08, 2010

Julia Child's "My Life in France"

Yes, I am a little late jumping on the Julia Child bandwagon, but I like to savor things I know I'm going to love, so I put off reading Child's My Life in France until this fall.
 Is it obvious for me to just flat out say I LOVE IT? I was so devastated to finish it the other night that I even went back and read Alex Prud'homme's Foreword.

Now, saying I love My Life in France makes me feel like a scientist saying I love Science Daily. FYI, that's the only time I've ever even joked about feeling like a scientist. IRREGARDLESS, what I mean to say is that I know that not everyone loves France and cooking as much as I do, so I have to wonder if someone like T (a math major who speaks Arabic) would have more than a moment's tolerance for Julia's long descriptions of the beautiful meals she learned to prepare. I'm not sure he would, but I hope I'm wrong.

Either way, I think the reason that Julia Child has remained so popular (both on screen and on the page) is that she managed to take something as haughty as French cuisine and make it approachable, using her energetic and, at times, sloppy style of demonstration and her genuine enthusiasm. It's kind of like when you see a cat fall into a bathtub. Only the cat is French cuisine and the bathtub is a bubbly American attempting it.

Probably the most inspiring thing I read in My Life in France has to do with my propensity for Kitchen Fails:

"I don't believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one's hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as "Oh, I don't know how to cook..." or "Poor little me..." or "This may taste awful...," it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one's shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, "Yes, you're right, this really is an awful meal!" Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed--eh bien, tant pis!"

I have a terrible tendency to base my whole appraisal of a dish I've made on whether or not T or a guest to the Kittchen likes it. Poor T has started to avoid my eye contact when he first bites into something, because I'm often standing off to the side, wide-eyed and kind of creepy, waiting for a reaction. It's so annoying.

One thing I'd really like to learn is to have the...gumption to serve the food I make without apologizing for whatever I think might be wrong with it. Hopefully, this will come with time, like it did for Julia. As she says, she came to cooking late, and was "thirty-seven years old and still discovering who [she] was."

The other thing I just adore about reading Julia's autobiography is her relationship with Paul Child. Even if musings on French cuisine and culture bore you, My Life in France is worth reading just to see a really beautiful, honest marriage at work, and it's really inspiring in our divorce-heavy society.

Since I came to My Life in France late, I'm only just feeling the surge of affection for Julia that I know many have felt for a long time. It's convenient that, during my period of EXTREME HOUSEWIFERY, her show comes on the Cooking Channel every afternoon, non?

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