I’m currently reading As Always, Julia. I had heard about it and it was on sale for $1.99 for Julia’s 100th birthday last week. I love Julia Child. I have several of her cookbooks and what I love about them is how detailed they are in technique. Still, I did make rock hard croissants until I saw Jacques Pepin (I think) on her show demonstrating the technique.
I didn’t expect to love this book. A bunch of letters back and forth between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto during the writing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking sounded interesting but not really entertaining to me. But, oh my frogs, interesting? Yes. Entertaining? Absolutely. The editor of the collection, Joan Reardon, has done an incredible job of tying the letters together so that they make a story. FYI:
I have made minor adjustments in the letters for readability, adding italics where appropriate and accents to French Words. I have also occasionally supplied punctuation for clarity and silently corrected obvious typing errors, but I have preserved most of the original misspellings, as well as the capital letters and underlining in the originals. … Although I have arranged the letters in sequence, references to subjects therein are not always perfectly chronological because of delays in mail delivery.
So, for the most part, the letters are intact and a real reflection on these two women’s thoughts and lives. And it’s fascinating. I’m not a book reviewer and I feel like I have to apologize for not being coherent here. It’s not just the story of the publication of Julia’s first real cookbook. It includes so much insight into the period (early 1950s) including what the housewife could find in the grocery store and challenges of French recipes with American produce – it includes so much conversation about their families and the political environment. It’s the era of McCarthyism and Adlai Stevenson. And yet, so much of what they talk about is still relevant today. I like to read a few pages when I lay down to go to sleep – and then suddenly it’s 3AM because I’m just going to read a couple more pages. I’ll warn you that it includes a lot of anti-Republican commentary but you have to remember that Democrat and Republican ideology was switched back and forth over the past 60 years so read it with that in mind.
And now, I am going to have to buy Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Sure, it has been on my list but I don’t expect to cook a lot out of it. It’s clear from the letters, however, that it’s far more than just a cookbook. I really must follow along with them in the writing of the book and find out what those super secret recipes for sauces are all about.