Okay, so I've become a bit obsessed with Julia Child ever since I watched "Julie & Julia" on DVD a couple weeks ago. I can tell I'm not the only one, since Volume 1 of her famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is on the New York Times Best-Seller list right now. The movie shows only a smattering of events from Child's life, interspersed with blogger Julie Powell's attempt to cook all the recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But the book is a comprehensive memoir of Julia Child's life that spans nearly 50 years. The bulk of the book focuses on her time in France, and especially on the years she spent in Paris, the city she loved most, and the place that started her on the path towards becoming a famous cook.
It's funny, because it appears that Child's decision to become a cook came about quite by accident. She hadn't even done much cooking or felt particularly interested in it until she moved to Paris. In Paris she fell in love with food and became, well a bit obsessed, in my opinion. Nearly every event recorded in My Life in France is centered around cooking and eating. It becomes rather exhausting after awhile, all this food, even for someone who loves food as much as I do. But I can see why she became such an accomplished and famous cook. Only someone who focuses all her energy on cooking can rise to the heights of celebrity like she did!
I think part of my exhaustion also came from trying to decipher all the untranslated French dishes that are mentioned in the book. Some of them are explained and translated into English, but many are not. I'm of two minds about this, though, since many of the dishes that Julia Child's explains in more detail sound really gross to me, so maybe I'm better off not knowing what they involve! I guess I don't have a refined enough palate for French food, but still, I'd like to take a look at Mastering the Art of French Cooking and try to make some of the less adventurous dishes.
Another thing I found a little off-putting about the book was its lack of interiority. When I read a memoir, I expect to find plenty of emotions and inner thoughts. But My Life in France focuses more on external events (and on food, of course) with only a few hints now and then as to what Julia Child was feeling or thinking about said events. So while the book gives me a good picture of Julia's life, it leaves me feeling like I still don't know her very well. Bummer. I know she was a very private person, and didn't necessarily wear her heart on her sleeve in real life, but still. Bummer.
Anyway, despite wanting to know Julia better, and despite being slowed down by French phrases and things done to fish that are so crazy they make me want to faint, it was a fascinating read and I've got the cookbook on my library list and a DVD of her cooking show, "The French Chef," next in my Netflix queue.