The result is a delight. On one level, it's the story of how a "6-foot-2-inch, 36-year-old, rather loud and unserious Californian"—her words —discovered the fullness of life in France. On another, it recounts the making of "Julia Child," America's grande dame of French cooking. Inevitably, the stories overlap.
Alan Riding - New York Times
Famed chef Child, who died in 2004, recounts her life in France, beginning with her early days at the Cordon Bleu after WWII. Greenberg, an actress for radio and commercials, does a fine job capturing Child's joie de vivre and unmatched skill as a culinary animateur. We hear Child's delight and excitement when she discovers her calling as a writer and hands-on teacher of haute cuisine; her exasperation as yet another publishing house rejects her ever-growing monster of a manuscript; and her joy at its publication and acclaimed reception after more than a decade of work. Child's opinionated exuberance translates remarkably well to audio, from her initial Brahmin-like dismissal of the new medium of television (why would Americans want to waste a perfectly good evening staring into a box, she wondered?) and frustration at her diplomat husband being investigated in the McCarthy-driven 1950s to her ecstasy about roast chicken and mulish insistence on the one correct method to make French bread at home. The seamless abridgment has no jarring gaps or abrupt transitions to mar the listener's enjoyment. Potential listeners should beware, however: this is not a book to hear on an empty stomach.
Lovingly cumulated from letters written by Child and her diplomat husband, Paul, as well as interviews with the author in her later years, My Life in France recounts the formative years of her development into a world-renowned chef. The book captures her unique voice in its elaborate descriptions of the sights and sounds of postwar France and its sumptuous and memorable meals. The title is deceptive, however; this recollection is much more than the story of Child's years in France and her time at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. Much of this memoir is dedicated to the years that followed, her experiences as she moved about Europe and finally settled in Cambridge, MA. One significant episode is Child's work with Simon Beck and Louisette Bertholle and their numerous failures and ultimate success at writing a French cookbook for an American audience, the critically acclaimed and classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Recommended for general audiobook collections. —Dawn Eckenrode, Daniel A. Reed Lib., SUNY at Fredonia
In seamlessly flowing prose, the text follows Child's growth as a cook into one of the best and most influential teachers of the twentieth century. Like Child herself, this memoir is earnest but never pedantic. Her eye for the ironic, her sense of humor, and her sharp sensitivity to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and colors that surround her make lucid, lively reading.
"Ooh, those lovely roasted, buttery French chickens, they were so good and chickeny!" Anyone who remembers the iconic, deceased Julia Child (1912-2004)—or perhaps Dan Aykroyd's affectionate imitation of her—will recognize the singular voice. It's employed in this memoir to full advantage, and to the reader's great pleasure. As relative and writer Prud'homme recalls, at the end of her long life, Child was busily recording her years as a budding chef. In 1948, newly wed, she moved to Paris with her diplomat husband Paul, whom she had met while on wartime duty for the OSS (now there would be a story) in Asia. The first meal she cooked for him, she recalls, was "a disaster," and she arrived in France "a six-foot-two-inch, thirty-six-year-old, rather loud and unserious Californian," but in every aspect of her life, she was determined to do better. With self-effacing humor, Child recalls her efforts at learning French, finding an apartment and coping with life in a different culture. No matter how embarrassing or baffling the course of her learning curve, Child's francophilia and zest for life shine through, and nowhere more than in the pages devoted to her sentimental education at the Cordon Bleu, the world-renowned culinary institute, in whose cramped basement she "learned how to glaze carrots and onions at the same time as roasting a pigeon, and how to use the concentrated vegetable juices to fortify the pigeon flavor, and vice versa," among other talents. Matching her growing skills with a formidable armada of kitchen gadgets that will make cookery-loving readers swoon, she then recounts the difficult conception and extremely difficult birth of her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking,which brought her fame. Charming, idiosyncratic and much fun—just like its author, who is very much alive in these pages. A blessing for lovers of France, food and fine writing.
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