Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Julia Child by Laura Shapiro
This account about Julia Child is enjoyable and interesting from the first page of the preface to the last page of the book. What we saw of her on television was the animation of a woman of may facets. Her life began in California where she grew into a society girl-fun loving and carefree. Her college days were spent at Smith where she continued enjoying friends and parties. During World War II she realized that she had better start getting serious about life. So she made the leap from society girl to working for the Office of Strategic Services. She began as a file clerk at the stateside office and then went to India and Ceylon where she set up the filing system used by the China-Burma-India theater which tracked intelligence gathering. It was during her days with the OSS that she met people who stretched her mind and made her think about deeper things than getting invited to parties or the seating arrangement at a fancy dinner. One of the people she met was Paul Child. He was a very talented OSS worker in the visual presentation unit responsible for maps, displays and photography. One of his great loves was for good food. Through him Julia began an interest in food and cooking. She later trained at the Cordon Bleu in France. While living and training there she made friends who would be life long associates and confidants. Two of them dreamed with Julia to write a cookbook for Americans to learn the art of French cooking. The three collaborated on the project for years. During this time Julia was determined that each recipe, each piece of advice in their book must be tested repeatedly before making it into the manuscript and print. She was tireless in the pursuit of excellence. Along the way she was also a society hostess for Paul during the years of civil service abroad. The Julia we saw on television came later to further interest in French cooking. She had a natural television presence and made people comfortable with cooking. And of course her voice was unique -people still imitate her and the bubbly excitement she had for fresh ingredients. Part of her I was unaware of was her crusading influence about food production. She was opinionated about many things and these opinions changed with time. In her last years she was without Paul which hurt terribly but always she was interested in cooking.