My Life in France by Julia Child & Alex Prud’Homme

This winning autobiography by the lively Child is a must-read for anyone who likes food or who likes France. Or both, of course! Child and her husband, Paul, move to France in 1948 to fulfill a cultural officer appointment Paul receives from the US government. From the description of the couple landing at Le Havre to their drive into post-war Paris, Child enchants with her enthusiasm, sparkling dynamism and wit. The passage she writes about her first-ever meal in a French restaurant seems almost fairy-tale like and I suppose it was in a way because it completely transformed her life. She becomes obsessed with French food and cooking and spends the next 5 years in Paris learning all she can about ingredients, methods and techniques. Even when the couple leaves Paris for stints in Marseilles, Germany and Norway, she is constantly tinkering with recipes especially as, by this time, she has teamed up with two French ladies to write a little book about French cooking.

There is a lot in the book about the tedious and exhausting process that led to Child getting their book published in the States. The narrative also follows her budding television career and superstardom in the food world, but the most glittering passages are when she writes about France and the food that inspires her. These passages skip and leap off the page and were a joy to read.

The only hesitation that I have about recommending the book is the graphic and intense depictions of the preparation of meat. As someone who is naturally squeamish about these things I had to take a deep breath and plow through when Child mentions killing lobster or ducks or deer. Just a warning for vegetarians and animal lovers.

Julia Child was one of the most energetic and passionate people of our time. We can all learn a lot from her about discovering our passions and pursuing our goals and about embracing different cultures. Another great read for Paris in July.