Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Making of the French Chef: My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, is a fascinating glimpse into the formative years of a culinary pioneer. Through first-person narrative gleaned from Child’s personal letters and recollections of her years with husband Paul Child in France in the 1950s, the reader is swept into a charming and delicious world of discovery.

Much has been made of the book as an account of Julia’s love affair with husband Paul, but throughout the story, Paul is often a secondary character. What really stands out are those characteristics that made Julia Child a culinary icon – her tireless curiosity in the kitchen, the research and schooling at Le Cordon Bleu, the constant testing and re-testing of recipes in her small Parisian kitchen to create the perfect dish, the wisdom she gained from shopkeepers and fish mongers and what she calls an “awakening of the senses,” evident in her joyous response to a tender sole meuniere or steaming bouillabaisse a la marseillaise. The reader can imagine Julia’s world blossoming as she finds her true calling in the cuisine of France. And, the meticulous, almost driven manner in which she created the classic “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” is an intriguing look behind the curtain. There is a growing realization of how much time, thought and care went into the choice of each recipe, ingredient and word found in that seminal volume.

Child’s transformation came somewhat later in life. At the age of 41, she bemoans a “lack of worldliness” which is ironic, given her now-legendary status in the international culinary world. For those of us who seek new challenges in life, particularly in the kitchen, Julia Child is, and will always be, an inspiration.

© 2006 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

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