just finished reading Julia Child’s memoirs: My Life In France (written with Alex Prud’homme), and although i am not regularly a big reader of biographies, auto- or otherwise, this was a total delight. there’s a wit and a warmth in her writing, and above all what comes across is a sincere and sympathetic love for food (duh). i really appreciated her discipline and devotion to the often fickle world of French cuisine, and how in her approach to the writing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking she managed to convey the importance of a serious engagement with respect for the tradition, without ever sliding into elitism or pretentiousness.
i fear that “wit and candour,” particularly when employed thusly (in combination), are so predictable and trite in the world of book reviews as to exhaust them of most actual value, so i won’t say that she displays this and that it is refreshing, but she does and it is. casual, enjoyable read even if you don’t particularly know or care about traditional French cuisine, and i personally found it interesting to read the inside story of someone who undeniably revolutionized North American attitudes toward food and cooking.
it even got me thinking that i should at probably learn and develop at least the rudiments of French cuisine, in terms probably of sauces, stocks and some techniques – if for no greater aim than to counteract my own predilection toward chaos, groundless experimentation and irreproducibility. i could certainly benefit from at least the capacity to properly measure things and pay close attention to cooking times and methods, even if it didn’t become my overall mode.
probably i won’t however, and will continue fumbling miserably through the world of spice-punctuated darkness that i currently inhabit. for while i am tempted to call her story “inspiring,” because she developed her interest in cooking comparatively late in life (early 30s), because she didn’t hesitate in taking major steps like so quickly enrolling in the Cordon Bleu, because she became one of the most famous cooks of the 20th century, i find that such inspiration from humble beginnings merely drives home the necessity of so consuming a passion as a precondition for any hopes of satisfying even the humblest of one’s goals, and how in the absence thereof, one may perhaps be forced to consign oneself to dirt-eating mediocrity. no? perhaps i am being seduced by the romanticism of passion and drive, as many are, so as not to see that such a passion (like, say, romantic passion), is fictive exactly to the extent that it is thought pure and clean burning and consistent. could it be that Child too is (quite understandably) so seduced? that the narrative form required to communicate her story leaves no option for the passion which is contingent and emergent from particular and favourable material conditions?
anyway, my own mouthful of putrefying grapes aside, i loved this book, and i love Julia Child, and probably will at least try to get old episodes of the French Chef out of the library, and good see Julia & Julia when it comes out, and maybe even someday bludgeon myself to death with a copy of Mastering the Art of French cooking.
coming soon: my four (current) favourite songs about alcohol, presumably some sort of restaurant review, and i’m starting to read Gastropolis: Food and New York City by Annie Hauck-Lawson.