Last week on August 15th, Julia Child would have turned 101 years old... hard to believe really.
In the book, "As Always, Julia," her voice comes through the pages in a way that is very clear, warm and exuberant. The book is a compilation of letters written during the 1950's by Julia and Avis DeVoto, who began writing serendipitously and over the course of their correspondence became beloved confidantes. Over about a decade, DeVoto helped guide and tirelessly advocate for Julia's encyclopedic two-volume masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Despite all the obstacles and self-doubt and rejections Julia faced, ultimately the cookbook was a triumph. And you end up wanting to cheer for the two women by the end of the book.
Julia's letters reveal her thoughts and observations on human relationships, politics, cooking and of course her ever "so beautiful, so cozy, so lovable" Paris. Much of Julia's wisdom gets circulated online, so I thought I'd share some lesser known tidbits and quotes:
- On relationships: I am extremely curious about how people adjust to life and each other. Before marriage I was wildly interested in sex, but since joining up with my old goat, it has taken its proper position in life.
- On human evolution: One must continually struggle for understanding and experience and wisdom.
- On wine: An old wine is like an old lady, and traveling can disturb her.
- On smoking: We have decided to give up smoking,... so I am puffing away like mad... I think it is really the adult substitute for thumb-sucking.
- On the creative avenue of hat-making: I even took a few lessons when we first came to Paris, and even wore three that I made. Never was any good at making clothes, though. Always looked as though I had made them. Awful, awful.
- On the cookbook: It must communicate, and must be "the cook's best friend"... present complexity smoothed-out, logical, and cookable form, in a lovable and compelling way.
- On her long distance friendship with Avis: I suppose one reason we can write so easily to each other is that, for one, we have established the rhythm, and for another, that our lives are not much involved with each other, actually. Perhaps if we lived next door, we would have developed curtains and veils and various tender heels. Anyway, it is lovely to be perfectly at ease, and to be able to discuss anything at all; and may it remain ever so!
- On husbands [Paul is Julia's]: Paul doesn't come home for lunch, and I shall have almost the whole day to work in... Thank heaven! (Husbands take a lot of attention.)
- On assumptions: I distrust categories and I am pleased that Paul does too. It is too pat and all-inclusive, and if I know anything at all it is that there are no final answers to anything, and the older I get the less I know and the less final the answers are... You can only approximate -- and if you can do that occasionally you're in luck.
- On Paris: Paris is heavenly... gee whiz, what a city. Why live anywhere else is the eternal question. I just feel myself expanding in all directions, I am so happy to be here... I am half French, and that is all there is to it.
As Always, Julia offers a wealth of recipes and fascinating cooking tips as well, of course. They really were secondary though. And to be fair, the book also shows a side of Julia that is opinionated and overly biased, but that makes her all the more human. More than just a culinary pioneer, Julia really seemed to be a remarkably wise and charming lady.
I picked up As Always Julia by accident really. Headed to the checkout line at my local bookstore, I found it in the bargain bin... serendipity :)