Tonight was such a fun night. It was book club night and we read My Life in France by Julia Child. I had read this book once before and I LOVE IT! Rereading it was a joy in every regard. Naturally I had heard of Julia Child before this book but I had no idea how remarkable she really was.
At the ripe old age of 34 she married her husband Paul who was an artist and foreign diplomat. Paul had spent years abroad before their marriage and already had a love for different cultures and food. As luck would have it their first assignment was the embassy in Paris, France. Growing up in Pasadena, CA Julia had never experienced anything beyond the bland food of the 1950’s-mostly prepared quickly by hired cooks. However, everything changed on her first day in France when Paul took Julia to a restaurant in Rouen where she ate an unforgettable meal of oysters, sole meuniere, coffee and wine. She had never tasted such rich and complex flavors and immediately fell in love with french food. Bucking the trend of other women (even the french women) that surrounded her, she dived into the markets and recipes of France.
Eventually with the encouragement of her husband Julia enrolled and graduated at the famous cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu. While gaining her culinary education she also met life-long friends and collaborators Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck with whom she started a cooking school called Ecole Des Trois Gourmandes. Realizing her knack for teaching and explaining french recipes to American housewives Julia and her friends spent nearly a decade writing her masterpiece aptly titled Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This is a book that inspired scores of women to embrace cooking and plan bold, exotic meals. After the books publication Julia started one of the first televised cooking shows called The French Chef, which became an immediate hit and ran for over 10 years. Now Julia’s entire Cambridge, Mass kitchen can be seen at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Her books are still best sellers and My Life in France was adapted in the movie Julie and Julia (the Julia part is so much better than the Julie. Meryl Streep totally gets Julia! Btw- I hate the book Julie and Julia).
While I appreciate Julia’s contribution to cooking, I am more impressed with her indomitable will. I am awed that in her late 30’s she dared to start a whole new life. She found her passion and had the courage to embrace it. I relate because I have also had a moment where I needed to change my life and like her the change was hard but so worth it! Now I am undergoing another change with my fitness challenge. It’s nice to know I can look to Julia for inspiration!
My Life in France is also a beautiful depiction of a marriage between Julia and Paul. They are an amazing couple-passionate, adventurous, and unfailingly devoted to one another. Julia was not only introduced to french cooking (and taught to enjoy food) by Paul but encouraged in every other aspect of her new career. As a talented artist and photographer Paul sacrificed much to allow Julia to pursue her dream. As Emily mentioned in book club Julia’s dream became Paul’s dream. I may not know much about marriage but isn’t that the idea?
It is a great book! Read it!
On a related note we had a great book club today. I love entertaining and making things look beautiful for my friends. I love planning menus, arranging table settings and gathering interesting people. To me a perfect evening is 5-6 friends, a good meal and a leisurely conversation. People always thank me for all the hard work but it truly is a joy. I just love it. For tonight I did a little French spread in honor of Julia. It was a simple but delicious with 2 kinds of pate (my first time with pate- yummy!), goat cheese, brie, various crackers, strawberries and french cookies. Then several people brought “food memory” desserts including a delicious arroz con leche and tiramisu (thanks girls). It was a wonderful night of sharing, chatting and delicious food. Perfect.
I also made pins with the badge Julia’s cooking school. This was a badge she wore throughout her cooking show and other public appearances. I told the girls wearing this pin would “bring out your inner-Julia in the kitchen!” They were very easy to make so if any of you want one let me know! Thanks to everyone who came and made it a great night!