I recently finished reading My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme. And, despite the fact that Julia Child is dead, I was insanely jealous of her life by the time I finished. Who knew that Julia was tasting her way through Burgundy, as well as attending the esteemed Cordon Bleu. Was it the kind of jealousy that drives a person to assume another’s identity or commit rash acts? No. Rather, it was one of those moments where I would have happily swapped places with her (assuming there was a time machine to take me back to the 1940s).
Picking up My Life In France, I knew that it would contain food porn galore. I was excited for that prospect! I thought that it would offer a nice respite from the rash of wine and spirit related books that I had been reading and maybe offer a bit of food pairing for all of the liquid I had consumed in those books. I couldn’t have been more wrong. While Julia didn’t disappoint on the food front, I wouldn’t have guessed that the book would be filled with wine porn, as well as food porn.
It was unknown to me when I started the book that Julia’s husband was a fairly renowned Oneophile with an extensive wine collection (in one scene Julia describes her husband’s horror upon discovering a broken 1842 Madeira after one of their moves – wow – 1842 people). To honor him in the book, Julia describes in detail the wines that were served to accompany the meals the couple consumed (either cooked by Julia or dining at some of the most famous restaurants in France). Although it does seem that Julia enjoyed the wine as much as her husband.
The wine was a pleasant surprise in My Life in France but I was thoroughly enchanted by the time that Julia spent abroad, her description of the food she cooked and ate and the wine that accompanied her sumptuous feasts. I wish I could have walked with Julia through the markets or went to the wine shop with Paul to pick wines. Oh, how I wish I could have been there for the Christmases that Julia and Paul spent with their friends in England where every Christmas meal was finished with a bottle of Château Y’quem. And, it made me kick myself that I didn’t purchase at least one bottle when my local Costco had it last year (along with all the first growth Bordeaux wines). I wanted to recreate those dinners that Julia and her friends cooked and finish it with a bottle of Y’quem.
A few years ago, I watched Julia and Julia but more for the modern-day story than Julia Child’s story. But, it was Julia as played by the fabulous Meryl Streep that stole the show. Before that, I had never understood the allure of Julia Child. By the time I came of age, the French food craze had passed, Julia seemed a bit passé (as she was well into her 80’s by this time) and her food wasn’t the easiest to make. After reading My Life in France, I have come to love Julia Child and relish the relationship that she had with her husband (a model for any marriage). What love of adventure and joie de vive Julia had!
The other thing that struck me when I read My Life in France was how committed Julia was to French food, breaking it down in such a way that she was able to teach others and then bringing French food to the home cook in America and beyond. Julia labored long and hard on the opus that eventually became Mastering the Art of Fine cooking. In reading about the commitment to her craft, I felt a kinship with Julia Child. While I like food and cooking, I love for wine and spirits and have a passion to share that love with others. Like Julia, at DOTW , we strive to break down wine and spirits in such a way that people can understand and embrace them. I can only hope that we are able to do half the job that she did.
Bon appetit to a life well lived Julia! Gone but not forgotten.