I remember being incredibly bored the first time I saw Julie & Julia in theaters. Perhaps I was too young to watch a non-action movie, but the neon exit sign held more fascination for me than the culinary wars. As I got older, the movie got better. But what I didn’t know until recently, was how accurate the story was.
The relationship between Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Berthole was affectionate confrontation. They were all creatives with different types of personalities. But their obsession with cooking brought them together. It also brought Mastering the Art of French Cooking to the American masses. Can you imagine what our food would be like without this encyclopedia of knowledge? Americans would still be sitting in front of tv with frozen peas and cans of beans. I highly doubt that organic would even be an option in most grocery stores.
Child completely shifted the American perception of food. Granted I wasn’t alive then and can’t speak personally to the revolution, but I do know that my grandmother was alive then and her cupboard lacked a lot of the modern-day cooking necessities. Garlic, spices, food that doesn’t come in packaging, and food that doesn’t block your arteries was absent from their menus. Although my grandmother never came around to garlic, my mother did. Now I use garlic, every household I know of has garlic, and I think it’s a safe bet that America is now obsessed with garlic.
Reading this book, you’re nearly transported in time. Not necessarily to a better time, as politics comes up quite a bit with the Child’s being government employees overseas and liberals in a time of conservatism. But marking the differences in society between then and now is almost reassuring that change does occur. Even though, most of the change seems to have occurred in the kitchen. The radical differences ensures that humanity can change.
The Childs spent about five-ish years in France, most of which were in Paris. Julia more or less fell into cooking. Searching for a purpose, Julia discovered her immense interest in food. Like a scientist to reactions, Julia wanted to know everything and anything about cooking. The affect of different quality eggs, what low-and-slow heat does to mayonnaise versus hot-and-quick, and the differences between the flour offered in Paris and the flour sold in America were the next frontier for Julia. In the creation of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a cookbook that may not have existed without Judith Jones of Knopf Publishers, Julia answered all of these questions and more. Her recipes and explanations had known purposes. The cookbook was self-evident. It was a book that taught readers to cook.
Not to simply follow the directions, they could cook on their own. Just as Julia did through France, Norway, and Germany. This book is a story of two independent people in a healthy relationship. Age doesn’t qualify success. And purpose is not singular. This is a story of a creative finding their niche and rolling with the punches. Who can’t relate to that? There’s the added bonus of this chapter of their life being set in Paris in the ’50s.