Sunday, February 21, 2010

Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks: My Life in France

Although the title of Julia Child's memoir is My Life in France, the scope of the book is much larger as it details her life with husband Paul from 1948 through 1992.  The book's main focus is on the period between 1948 until 1954.  During those years, they lived in France, Germany, Norway, and the United States, and traveled extensively in those countries and others.  I greatly enjoyed learning about Julia's epiphany regarding food; her cooking education; and her subsequent careers as a cooking instructor and cookbook author.  But the book is also an interesting cultural study of France, where ideas about food -- the buying, cooking, and savoring of it -- differ greatly from American ideas of the same.

Julia, who died in 2004, and Paul felt so much at home in France.  They wholeheartedly embraced French cuisine ideals.  Later, Julia managed a great feat: through her cookbooks and cooking television shows, she inspired the American public in an era when convenience foods were the new rage.

Convenience foods and timesavers are still the rage in the States, and the cookbook industry follows the trend, with titles dedicated to 30-minute suppers, quick weeknight meals, sort-of homemade, and the like.  I even own some of those cookbooks.  I'm a busy girl, and I have to feed a busy family, and I don't have hours of time to devote to Thursday night's supper.  Sometimes I feel like we're just trying to feed our folks, get it on the table quick, wolf it down, and move on to the next thing.

But I have to admit, after reading this book, something inside me feels dissatisfied with this set-up.  I actually enjoy shopping for a nice meal, taking the time to make it right, and then thoughtfully eating it in the company of people I love.  I want to allow myself this particular joy more often in the weeks ahead.

As a memoir, which tend to be series of vignettes, My Life in France sometimes meanders a bit too much in places.  But this is more often in the beginning; the second half of the book is more focused.  That is my only complaint, and it's a small one.  Julia and Paul enjoyed a lovely life, and I had great fun seeing it through Julia's eyes.


  1. Great review, Ellen! I don't bother with time-consuming meals anymore, not because I haven't the time (though that is a major factor) but because a certain someone puts ketchup on everything without even tasting it first, and the girls usually taste politely then say they are not hungry tonight. I can't wait to hear what you think of Julie & Julia.

  2. Hi Ellen,
    I found your blog through the Ambleside Online list. Thanks for this review...this is not a book I'd be drawn to typically, but you've made it sound quite interesting. I love taking the time to prepare yummy food for my family, and we try to make dinner time a lovely time of conversation and food. We don't even eat until around 8:00 at night, so the temptation truly is to hurry up and finish. However, there is so much connecting my family would miss out on, so I'm learning to just enjoy the moments for what they are. How I admire, too, your goal to read 52 book in 52 weeks! Read on!

  3. Like Queen Mom I'm a passionate cook. Love it.

    Also loved Julie and Julia - the film not the book. Sadly the book is too mealymouthed for me...and you, I supect, Ellen.

    I didn't know about this memoir. I shall certainly look out for it. Don't know why it wasn't everywhere when the film was released - her cookery books were.


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