I’m pretty sure I’m late to jump on this bandwagon, but this is a case of both better late than never and also something appearing in your life just when you need it most. Shortly after Christmas Mr L and I were taking a turn around our favourite bookshop in search of inspiration, bargains and board games. Inevitably our paths diverged, I left him in fiction whilst I pottered off to the depths of food writing. I am as likely to take a cookbook or collection of food essays to bed as I am to curl up with a murder mystery or new literary masterpiece. I love both those genres (a literature degree will do that to you!), but my comfort reading always involves food in some way, and I was in need of some serious comfort.
What better place to find solace than with Julia Child. I’ve always been aware of her work, but for some reason never got around to reading any of her books. I like French cookery, but as the blog title would suggest I’m more likely to reach for olive oil and pasta than butter and beouf, and as a result I’ve never felt the need to add “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” to my burgeoning collection of cookbooks. However, as I browsed the shelves desperately searching for the written equivalent of a favourite jumper or winter quilt, I stumbled across Julia Child’s memoir.
Food memoir is my favourite thing to read. I love to live through someone else’s experiences of food, understand how it shaped them, and in turn how my own food experiences have shaped me. Other people’s reflections often lead to the best observations in my own life. Julia couldn’t have come into my life at a better moment. I was deep in the funk of job despair and floundering about struggling with the “but what am I going to do with my life” questions and “what if I’ve missed it” fears. Imagine the wave of relief that flooded over me when I learned that Julia Child was in her mid-late 40s when she discovered that food was what she loved and wanted to do with her life and it was several years after that she worked out how to make it the case.
Reading “My Life In France” gave me a swell of feeling I haven’t had for a long time. I got a rush every time a new dish was made, a new technique learned or meal enjoyed. I haven’t lived a book like that for years. I carried it around in my handbag like a talisman, snatching chapters or paragraphs on tube journeys between meetings, feeling that if I just had the hope that Julia gave me tucked into my pocket I could make it through.
I haven’t wanted to make coq au vin, or my own fresh mayonnaise as a result of reading Julia Child, but I have learned that it’s okay not to know, that there are always new things to learn, new experiences to be had and that jumping in with two feet is definitely the way to go! When she arrived in France she spoke very little of the language and didn’t know what a shallot was, when she left she took her passion for all things French and shared it with the world. She was determined, cheerfully willing to learn and a force to be reckoned with and has taught me a great deal. Thank you Julia.