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My Life In France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme
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My Life In France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme

Why I Recommend This Book

If you love food, France and strong women, you should read this book. Julia Child is a delight, but underneath her cheerful exterior is one driven and smart woman. Plus, her marriage with her husband Paul is so sweet.

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Summary

The story of the famed chef, Julia Child, and her time in France where she became acquainted with French food, culture, and cooking, which led her to amazing opportunities and eventually her own cookbook and TV show.

Quotes And Info About The Author

  • Alex Prud’homme is a writer and journalist who has covered everything from terrorism to French food. He is also Julia Child’s nephew who helped her write her life story with this book.
  • Julia Child was born in Pasadena, California and graduated from Smith College.
  • She worked for the OSS during WWII and met her husband Paul in China while they were both in the military.
  • She and her husband moved to France for Paul’s job, where Julia studied at the Cordon Bleu, a school for French cooking.
  • She published Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961 with her friends Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.
  • Her show The French Chef was launched in 1963, which made her a national celebrity. Her show won a Peabody Award in 1965 and an Emmy in 1966.
  • Julia Child passed away in 2004

“The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time.” -Julia Child

“The art of bread making can become a consuming hobby, and no matter how often and how many kinds of bread one has made, there always seems to be something new to learn.” – Julia Child

“In the 1960s, you could eat anything you wanted, and of course, people were smoking cigarettes and all kinds of things, and there was no talk about fat and anything like that, and butter and cream were rife. Those were lovely days for gastronomy, I must say.” – Julia Child

“I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give.” -Julia Child

“Life itself is the proper binge.” – Julia Child

“Being tall is an advantage, especially in business. People will always remember you. And if you’re in a crowd, you’ll always have some clean air to breathe.” -Julia Child

“Drama is very important in life: You have to come on with a bang. You never want to go out with a whimper. Everything can have drama if it’s done right. Even a pancake.” -Julia Child

“I fell in love with the public, the public fell in love with me, and I tried to keep it that way.” -Julia Child

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” -Julia Child

(All quotes from brainyquote.com)

Major Characters

  • Julia Child: Famed cook who learned how to cook French food and brought it to America.
  • Paul Child: Julia’s husband
  • Dorothy (Dorth) Child: Julia’s younger sister
  • Chef Bugnard: Kind Teacher of class at L’Ecole du Cordon Bleu
  • Madame Brassart: Head of L’Ecole du Cordon Bleu School, she and Julia didn’t get along.
  • Simca (Simone) Fischbacher and Louisette Bertholle: French cooking friends, worked on the cookbook and create school together.

Book Club Discussion

  1. What personality characteristics did Julia Child have that led her to success?
  2. In the book, Julia credits her husband Paul for much of her career. In what ways do you see this to be the case.
  3. Have you had the experience Chef Bugnard shares (Quote 1 under Quotes From The Book) when he was giving a lesson at the Cordon Bleu school? Do you think this is more of a cultural mindset?
  4. What differences of French life stick out to you during the time period Julia and Paul Child lived there compared to now?
  5. Why do you think Julia enjoyed France and did well with the culture when many other Americans found it unwelcoming?
  6. Julia Child gives interesting commentary on being the only woman in the room. (Quote 2 under Quotes From The Book.) If you are a woman do feel this pressure to put on an appearance of sweet good humor even if you are the most talented or knowledgeable one in the room? Or if you are not a woman, do you see this expectation still in our society?
  7. Referring to Quote 3 from Quotes From The Book, has this ever happened to you, to come to a new place that feels like home?
  8. Referring to Quote 4 from Quotes From The Book, what did you think of Julia’s rule to never apologize for her work? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?
  9. In Quote 5 from Quotes from the Book, Julia refers to Simca as her “French Sister”. What brought some of the changes in Simca and Julia’s working relationship and friendship? Do you think this can be avoided overtime with friends in our lives or is it just how it goes?
  10. In our culture that tends to value youth, what did you think of Julia not finding her passion until her mid-30s and not finding success until her 40s? (See Quote 8 under Quotes From The Book.)

Quotes From The Book

Quote 1:  “No dish, not even the humble scrambled egg, was too much trouble for him. “You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made,” he said, “Even after you eat it, it stays with you — always.”

Quote 2: “I was delighted by Bugnard’s enthusiasm and thoughtfulness. And I began to internalize it. As the only woman in the basement, I was careful to keep up an appearance of sweet good humor around ‘the boys,’ but inside I was cool and intensely focused on absorbing as much information as possible.”

Quote 3: “I had come to the conclusion that I must really be French, only no one had informed me of this fact. I loved the people, the food, the lay of the land, the civilized atmosphere, and the generous pace of life.”

Quote 4:  “We ate the lunch with painful politeness and avoided discussing its taste. I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine….Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes.” 

Quote 5: “Simca was my ‘French sister.’ I responded tremendously to her verve and creative flair, and I was grateful for her generosity with La Pitchoune. But there was no doubt that she and I had grown further and further apart. Maybe it was inevitable.”

Quote 6: “We looked at each other and repeated a favorite phrase from our diplomatic days: “Remember, ‘No one’s more important than people!’ In other words, friendship is the most important thing — not career or housework, or one’s fatigue — and it needs to be thended and nurtured.

Quote 7: “This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”

Quote 8: “Upon reflection, I decided I had three main weaknesses: I was confused (evidenced by a lack of facts, an inability to coordinate my thoughts, and an inability to verbalize my ideas); I had a lack of confidence, which cause me to back down from forcefully stated positions; and I was overly emotional at the expense of careful, ‘scientific’ though. I was thirty-seven years old and still discovering who I was.”

Additional Activities

Try French Cooking! Have a group activity of taking a stab at one of the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook.

Watch some of the Julia scenes from the movie, Julie & Julia and compare them to the book.

Have a France-themed evening and learn some French using these French card game.

Watch some of these “best of” moments from Julia Child’s Cooking show: The French Chef.

Refreshments

I think the most obvious would be a recipe from Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

However, for those who aren’t as great of cooks like Julia Child, here are some other ideas.

French Candies:

You can order these here.
Or you can order these here.
Here are instructions on how to make a French-inspired cheese board. Delicious and so pretty!
Photo Credit: damndelicious.net

There are so many different foods mentioned in this book, but here are a few more ideas that Julia mentioned during her time in France: croissants, grapes, pears, solemeuniere (Julia’s favorite dish when she first arrived in France), escargots, roasted chicken, strawberries, cherries, sea scallops, mushrooms, scrambled eggs, pizza, duck, veal.

janiWood