My Life in France

I went through a bit of a Julia Child moment a few months ago, which was when I picked up My Life in France from Brotherhood Books. I'd watched the first season of Julia with Sarah Lancashire, and I must have seen something else too, because I became quite intrigued by this tall, practical woman with the love of French cooking (and don't tell me that Bonnie Garmus' Lessons in Chemistry doesn't owe something to Julia Childs' story).

I finally got around to starting My Life in France while I was on holiday in Cairns, and due to many interruptions I've only just finished it now. I have absolutely zero interest in French cooking, but I am very interested in life in Europe in the post-war years, the gusto for life's pleasures displayed by Julia and her husband Paul, and Julia's unlikely television and publishing stardom. My Life in France was a late-life book, a collaboration between Julia and her great-nephew Alex Prud'homme, who wrote down her memories and anecdotes and shaped them into a book. It's episodic and meandering, but often very charming, punctuated with evocative photos by Paul (an accomplished photographer and visual display producer, despite being blind in one eye) and Julia's idiosyncratic exclamations -- 'Whoops! Merde alors! Ouf!'

It's Julia's appetite for life and her determination to wring every ounce of enjoyment from her experiences that makes her such an appealing character. Her classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was a labour of love over many years, and she was convinced (rightly) that American housewives weren't just content to produce over-processed, quick and easy gloop. I'm sure it's no accident that there was a bit of a Julia Child rediscovery during pandemic lockdowns, when we were all trapped inside our own kitchens and with time on our hands to learn how to make bread properly. And now I want to catch up with all the other Julia content I haven't seen yet -- season 2 of the Lancashire show, the film Julie and Julia (tied in with this edition of My Life in France, as the cover attests) and a documentary, also called Julia, on SBS. Bon appetit!

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