August 18, 2011

Feed Your Mind: My Life In Paris

Monday was Julia Child’s birthday! In case you couldn’t tell by my banner quote, I love Julia. She is such a ubiquitous presence in American homes - I think I knew her name before I ever knew who she was. I love watching the reruns of her shows and how she continued to cook and joke even as she aged.

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This past spring I picked up a copy of her autobiography, My Life In Paris, co-authored with her great nephew, Alex Prud’homme. It was one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. Her love of life and food is infectious. Although I have never been to France, nor have I much experience with French food (absent a 3 month stint working at a French restaurant in high school), I couldn’t help but be captivated by the wonder and happiness Julia felt living and eating her way through Europe with her husband, Paul. Julia’s enthusiasm appeals to both “foodies” and non-foodies alike. While I don’t have any interest in making an aspic, or attempting to cook my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I find her approach to food inspirational. Julia truly enjoyed food, which, in the modern era of fad diets and counting carbs and grams of fat is not always easy. One thing I hope never to lose even as I try to be healthier in my cooking is the kind of love that Julia had for food.

I also find it instructive to read about how Julia always tackled her problems in the kitchen. As my favorite quote of hers indicates, apologies weren’t the solution to a problem in the kitchen - finding a solution was the solution! The book is filled with examples of Julia’s creativity and perseverance in facing challenges, but one I find particularly meaningful is her story of trying to make authentic French bread. She made loaf after loaf after loaf, trying to get the crust right - and eventually she and Paul rigged up their oven to get just the right amount of steam. Rather than giving up or settling for a product with which she wasn’t satisfied, she tried it again. And again. And again. Until she was satisfied.

In a lot of ways, she reminds me of my grandmother: they both love cooking and exploring foods, they both are strong women (for a good example of what I want to be like when I’m in my 80s, watch Julia with Jacques Pepin. That broad was feisty!), and they both were ridiculously tall (seriously. My grandma was over 6 feet when she was younger.)

I highly recommend picking up a copy this summer - it’s a pretty quick read, and if you go on vacation, you might gain a little inspiration from Julia’s adventures in new places trying new cuisines.

I always enjoy reading about other people’s culinary experiences, so for this week’s reader survey: what is your favorite “food” book? Leave your responses in the comments!

My Life in Paris
Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.

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