My Life in France by Julia Child/Alex Prud’homme is well worth the time spent savoring her memories in the same way a visit with an elderly relative brightens both your days. Though Mrs. Child died just before publication, the book reads the way she spoke to people; her nephew (great-nephew) did a wonderful job. I savored this book, as one should a fine wine or exquisite confection.
The story begins with a quick overview of her life up to the time she met her husband, Paul Child, and kicks into gear with her stormy introduction to France. It was a dark and rainy night… her first taste of real french cooking (at a small inn in Normandy) and her introduction to life in post-war Paris as the wife of a U.S. diplomat.
She shares her rudimentary newlywed culinary skills with the reader, her growing desire to learn to cook the marvelous foods they were served at every restaurant, and her eventual enrollment at the Cordon Bleu school — her trials and tribulations, determination and successes are all there.
For me, it was her descriptions of her friends and family that really brought the book to life. Without Chef Bugnard, she would never have received her coveted certificate from the Cordon Bleu. Without Simca and Louisette, she would not have ventured into teaching or writing. Without PBS (Public Broadcasting in the United States), she might never have become the household icon we remember.
Along the way, she drops hints to those of us who enjoy cookery — her methods and the way she thought about cooking as well as a few tidbits of recipes.
A minor annoyance to me was her somewhat frequent inclusion of French words and phrases with no explanation. My command of French is shaky, and I resorted to a dictionary a couple times. It made the book flow less smoothly for me, though I am sure it was as natural for her to switch from one language to another as it was to whip up an omelet…
But that was, really, a minor annoyance, given the pleasure of reading a book as instantly familiar as a new-found friend.