April 08, 2006

Birthday treats to think about...

Hint, hint to my dear husband for something to accompany the usual bouquet of my favorite tulips:

I spent a very pleasurable time this morning with my coffee and William Grimes's NY Times review of Julia Child's memoirs (co-written with Alex Prud'homme), My Life in France, which
is Child's exuberant, affectionate and boundlessly charming account of that transformation. It chronicles, in mouth-watering detail, the meals and the food markets that sparked her interest in French cooking, and her growing appreciation of all things French. It also tells the story of the inspired partnership between Child, who died last year, and her husband, Paul, a sensualist and cosmopolitan who cheered his wife on every step of the way, tasted all her experiments in the kitchen and imparted his considerable knowledge of French wine and culture. As Child puts it, with considerable understatement, "We were a good team."
I got a bit of a start to see the photo of Prud'homme in the article, because, as I soon remembered, I went to college with him; he was a year or two ahead of me. Even more startling and delightful was to learn this,
My Life in France was produced by a kind of alchemy. Child first discussed writing a memoir in 1969, when her husband began sifting through hundreds of letters he had written to his twin brother, Charles, describing their life in France. Mr. Prud'homme, Charles's grandson, talked Child into collaborating in 2003 and managed, by stitching together interviews and letters, to construct a coherent, fluid narrative, much of it edited by Child, that rings absolutely true to the sound of her voice.
Nifty, eh?

I have many, many fond memories of watching Julia Child's earliest efforts in black and white on Channel 13 with the whole family, and my father just convulsed in laughter as she'd slap a chicken around or pick up a fish that had slithered to the kitchen floor; meanwhile, my Viennese grandmother sat with a piece of paper and pencil in her hands, copying down the recipe of the day.

And just in the past month, I've taken to referring to Davy as "Julia's child" as he has shown a particularly intense interest in cooking. As soon as I start pulling ingredients out or chopping something or he hears oil sizzling in the pan, he materializes by my side, step stool at the ready. Some of my friends might not approve of a five-year-old frying bacon over an open flame, or chopping carrots and onions for venison stew (all under mama's careful supervision, I should add), but I think Julia would.

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