France is a favorite place to read about. I have read a number of non-fiction books about France and I never tire of it. It seems to have so many wonderful attributes. It is so easy to romanticize the beauty of the place and the lifestyle there. However, when I read about it, it seems to be exactly as I imagine. Well, it did in the early to mid-1900s, anyway.
When Wendy suggested My Life In France for this Book Club selection, I was immediately enthralled and I was not disappointed. My Life In France was a lovely read. Written in a very personal, very approachable style, it covers the day-to-day life of Julia Child and her husband Paul when they were stationed in France. Finding and furnishing a place, shopping daily for fresh new foods, and learning their way around the city, this memoire was beautiful and engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed the look at life in France – the culture, the foods, the people, the countryside, and so much more!
I definitely recommend reading this one if you have not! But, for now, on to the questions. The questions were found on LitLovers. I chose to not answer every question they included.
1. Julia Child was an exuberant personality. How does that exuberance reveal itself when she first moves to France with husband Paul, a country many Americans have found unwelcoming? Why was Julia’s experience so different?
Exuberance – what a great word for her! She was bound and determined to learn as much as she could and to be a part of life in France. When you choose to be a part of life, you don’t tend to find a whole lot of unwelcome towards yourself. I think this is why Julia’s experience was, and is, so fascinating to us, even today.
2. Talk about Julia’s ability to overcome self-doubt and rejection as she pursues her career…both as chef and later as writer.
Julia plunged headfirst into whatever she decided to do and she seldom did things only for herself. She learned to cook because she knew it would be a joy for her husband. She found joy in it for herself along the way. She took up writing because it was something that she knew would be pleasurable for her friends and for herself. She pursued it regardless of the rejections because she had faith in what she was doing.
3. What role does Paul play in Julia’s development? How would you describe the quality of their marriage?
Their marriage was joyful! They lived to do the activities that brought joy and pleasure and meaning to their lives and they shared those activities. With Paul’s upbringing around wonderful food, Julia chose to learn to cook so that he would be able to continue something that was joyful to him. She definitely figured out how to be successful at it and that is a good summation of their marriage – try to please the person you love and things will go well for you.
4. Trace the process of how Julia comes to fall in love with French food—the fact that it was not just to be eaten but to be experienced. Talk about that first meal in France where she had her epiphany? Anything similar in your own life?
During that first meal in France, Julia experienced the slower-paced life that revolved around more than just yourself or your job. So different from everything she had come from. The statement from Paul that “good cooking was regarded as a combination of national sport and high art” was a revelation to Julia and from that moment on her appreciation of and learning about food changed. Her life had just altered course and she tumbled down the new avenue full of life and vigor and desire to learn more.
5. How important was Julia Child’s role in introducing America to French food and classical cooking? Has her influence lasted, given the culture’s affection for (or addiction to) fast food and convenience cooking, as well as our emphasis on low-fat diets?
Julia’s role in America’s food fascination was very substantial. She was an inspiration to many home chefs and she encouraged them. It is easy to brush away the homemaker’s importance and that is something that Julia changed. No longer were they just cooks for their families; they could be inspirational chefs that broadened the palates and tastes and ideas of their families. That was huge!
I think her influence has lasted, though not in the same way as she initially impacted our society. Her books and story are still encouraging and joyful and bring a pleasure and desire to feed our families well. While I don’t think I will actually make an attempt at many of the dishes she did, her dedication to figure out what works and why is stunning. It makes me want to do more to feed my family well and to know what works and what doesn’t. In that regard, I think Julia’s influence will be felt for a very long time. In addition to that, she was very influential in television and the way food was shown on television. Her show was the predecessor to many of today’s shows and so I think she will always be remembered for that.
6. If you have visited France (or live there), how do Julia’s reminisces compare to life in France today? What has changed…and what has remained the same?
I have never visited France but boy! do I want to. My Life In France was just another reminder of the fact that I find France fascinating and enchanting and would love to go visit.
7. If you have cooked with any of Julia Child’s cookbooks, especially her most famous, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, what were your experiences with her recipes? Difficult? Easy? Delicious? Too rich? Which are your favorite recipes of hers? Do you, in fact, enjoy French cuisine?
I have never used any of Julia’s cookbooks but have plans to check one out from the library to at least read about some of the science that she refined in her recipes. I think, based on this book, that many of her recipes would take more attention to detail than I usually give a recipe but I would still like to try one or two of them. And, who knows? Maybe some of them are not so difficult after all!
This book was a definite joy to read. I am thankful that Wendy suggested it. I am glad it will be on my bookshelf from now on. I will definitely pick it up again in the future to reread. I enjoyed it that much.
Our next book is Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. If you are not familiar with it, Julie Powell took Julia Child’s cookbook and determined that she was going to create every recipe in the book before the year was up. This is the account of her attempting that. Sounds terribly interesting! Please join us! Oh, and here is the link to the questionson LitLovers for Julie and Julia.