Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Life in France by Julia Child (audio)

My Life in France
by Julia Child, with Alex Prud'Homme
Narrated by Kimberly Farr
Books on Tape, 2006
11 hours, 17 minutes

I have a new hero! Growing up in the 60's and 70's, Julia Child was that lady with the funny voice who cooked on TV. My mother, busy raising six fussy eaters, definitely wasn't cooking from Mastering The Art of French Cooking. By the late 70's and early 80's, my primary association with Julia became Dan Ackroyd's Saturday Night Live sketch. You remember... the one with blood spurting all over the kitchen?

Thankfully, my culinary interest and skills evolved since then, but I still had no special interest in Julia Child. The movie Julie & Julia changed that!

My Life in France opens in 1948. Julia, newly married to Paul Child, arrives in France (unable to speak the language) and within hours consumes a meal (Sole Meuniere at Restaurant La Couronne in Rouen) that alters the course of her life. Julia first learns the language, then sets out to learn French cooking. After graduating from the Cordon Bleu, she begins to teach and, eventually, writes "The Book". My Life in France chronicles that fascinating journey but, at the same time, provides wonderful glimpses into French life, her marriage and personal relationships, and the meals she eats. Oh, those meals...

The book left me with a new, somewhat unexpected, appreciation of Julia Child. I admire her determination and drive in identifying her dream and chasing it. I admire the painstaking experimentation, testing, and attention to detail behind each and every recipe in her cookbook. Through that laborious process, she was able to produce the authoritative source on French cooking for Americans. Finally, I admire Julia's outlook on life.

A final thought from Julia:
"In Paris in the 1950's, I had the supreme good fortune to study with a remarkably able group of chefs. From them I learned why good French food is an art, and why it makes such sublime eating: nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should. If one doesn't use the freshest ingredients or read the whole recipe before starting, and if one rushes through the cooking, the result will be an inferior taste and texture - a gummy beef Wellington, say. But a careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life-changing experience."

My final thought:

Although the audio is well done, I often wanted to see the names of places, foods, or people in print. (I don't speak French.) In addition, all the wonderful photos are, obviously, missing from the audio. If you have any interest at all in cooking, eating, France, or Julia Child, you must read this book!

FTC disclosure: I purchased the audio download from audible, and borrowed the book from my library.

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  1. I'd love to read this. I didn't know much about Julia Child but I loved the movie Julie and Julia except for the Julie part. I wish it had been more a movie about Julia's life only. This book would definitely fill in the gaps left by the movie and I love to cook too!

  2. I've had this on my TBR list for quite some time. Julie Child was my hero a year or two after I married and discovered the world of PBS cooking shows :)

    My daughter owns the book - but who knows where it might be. I am hopeful she will find it soon.

  3. I don't know much about Julia Child either but both the book and the movie seem good enough to watch/read. Thanks for the review! :)

  4. I love Julia Childs..yes, I watched her as a wee caite...and I must read this book.
    But this is a book that calls for print, not audio, I think.

  5. I know I'm in the minority, but I loved the Julie parts of the movie, too. But watching it definitely made me want to read more about Julia Child. I need to get my hands on this book. Have a great weekend!

  6. I recently watched the movie Julie and Julia, and it gave me an appreciation for that large, rather plain, squeaky voiced woman. An interest was even created to go find that French cooking book of hers -- you know for us American housewives who know nothing about French cooking. But, then, I remembered, "I don't like to cook". So, what's the point.

  7. I loved the audio of this -- but I also owned the print version so I could get the best of both worlds. She had a fabulous marriage.

  8. This is on my list of top books ever. You are right on when you say that it inspires. You have a feeling that ANYTHING Julia would have set her mind to do, she would have been successful, just with her joie de vivre. It also makes you think that perhaps with such an attitude, WE should reach for our dreams as well. Just for grins you should at least check the book out of the library to see the pictures...they are great!

  9. I wasn't aware of this book. Gave my son the book of her cooking show recipes last week. He was interested. Thanks.

  10. I haven't read this one yet but am interested in it since I saw the movie. Great review.

  11. I enjoyed listening to this one too...wouldn't it have been awesome if Julia actually had read it out loud???? I want to read the book now...just because sometimes things sink in better in print for me.

  12. I liked the movie more than the book, Julie and Julia, and think I'd enjoy Julia Child's own book too.

  13. I read this book a few years ago and really enjoyed it.

  14. Oh, those early SNL days--they were priceless! Julia Child was priceless. I think I will have to read this: the movie version of Julie and Julia sparked a craving for all things Julia. Will take your advice & go for the print version. Thanks!

  15. This sounds brll - I'm keen to read this actually having loved the book and film Julie and Julia! Sounds fun!

  16. This is on my list of must reads. I grew up watching Julia and started as a small child. Her death compelled me to explore my passion for food and wine through educational courses, which made a huge impact. I'm admittedly biased, but happy you chose this book. I've heard good things about it.

  17. I'm so glad that I have a copy of this to read! Julia Child was fabulously rendered onscreen by Meryl Streep, so much so that I feel as if I already know her; reading the book is bound to cement my feeling of familiarity with her. I'd love to visit her kitchen at the Smithsonian one day.

  18. I definately need to read this book. Julie and Julia was such a great movie. :]

  19. Mrs. B. - You sounds like me both in not knowing much about Julia's life before the movie, and not caring as much about Julie's life during the movie. Hope you get to read this!

    Molly - It's funny how I never really thought much about Julia before the movie, and now I'd love to own Mastering The Art of French Cooking! Hope your daughter can locate her book.

    Kals - You could watch the Julie & Julia movie. That would give you a pretty good idea of whether Julia's book would interest you.

    Caite - The audio is excellent, but the pictures in the print version are not to be missed!

    Jill - I didn't really dislike the Julie parts as much as I wanted to get back to Julia! This was a great book.

    Kim - LOL! I decided that I'd love Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and even dropped a few hints for Mother's Day. Not sure how much I'd actually cook from it though...

    Beth F - Her marriage, and Paul, seemed perfect! I loved this book.

    Sandy - I ended up getting the book from the library. I would've hated to miss the pictures - especially their Valentine's cards! Julia was truly an amazing woman!

    Heather - This book is definitely worth checking out!

  20. Just Mom - Thanks. I loved the book!

    Staci - That's what I kept thinking, too!! Wouldn't it have been great if she could have recorded the book before she died...

    Harvee - I haven't read the Julie & Julia book, and probably won't, but I loved this one!

    Esme - I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it, too.

    DS - Those early days of SNL were the best!! I'm interested in all things Julia now, too... even dropping hints about Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Mother's Day! Hope you get a chance to read this one.

    Verity - I'm sure you would love this!!

    Porcelaine - How interesting that Julia inspired you to explore your own interests in food and wine! After graduating from college, I took two French cooking classes at a local community college and loved it... have been experimenting on my own ever since. Thanks for commenting!

    Paperback Reader - Wasn't Meryl Streep wonderful! Julia's kitchen will definitely be on the itinerary next time I'm in DC.

    Robby - Hope you get a chance to read this. It may end up being one of my favorites this year!

  21. Great review! I was amazed by Julia's thoroughness in testing all her recipes when I read this book, and also loved her anecdotes of living in France. Glad you enjoyed it as well!

  22. I haven't read (or listened to!) MY LIFE IN FRANCE. I do have JULIE & JULIE on my TBR stack; I wonder if I should read Julia Child's memoir first, to appreciate the connections that Julie makes in her memoir ...

  23. What a lovely review - thanks for sharing. Have you seen the film Julie and Julia? I have and thought that it was really good (although the Julia side is more successful than the Julie side in my opinion

    Lovely post -


  24. Dana - The painstaking testing of each recipe is probably what amazed me most - and I really think Julia thrived on that! Loved the book...

    Dawn - Not sure if the order really matters... just be sure to read (or listen) to this one!

    Hannah Stoneham - The movie is what sparked my interest in Julia's book. The Julia parts were much more engaging than Julie's story, but I enjoyed the movie, too.

  25. I own this book and it's around here somewhere. Your excellent review is prompting me to find it. I'm glad that Julia Child has regained a new audience. She was a very classy lady.

  26. I really want to read this. I can see how listening to the audiobook would lack some of what the regular version has.

  27. Chrisbookarama - This audio was so well done! I enjoyed every moment, but am glad I found a print copy at the library. Otherwise, I would have missed all the great photos.


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