This is a review of a book review (?!) jampacked with 1950s Paris culture and glamour, culinary groundbreaking history, Julia Child, romance and gorgeous photography.
The book is “France is a Feast”, and tells the story of Julia Child, with photos by her deeply enamoured husband, Paul Child, who was also an excellent photographer. The book text is written by Julia’s biographer and nephew, Alex Prud’homme, the photos collected by photography curator Katie Pratt, whose parents were close friends of Paul and Julia Child, so there’s a clear and close link between the writers and their subjects.
A well-written book review makes you want to rush to your local bookshop or library (depending on your budget)
and demand to see a copy – today I’ve come across a book review which is delightful in itself, gorgeously written and definitely an appetiser for the book: Cynthia Zarin‘s “Portrait of a Marriage: Julia Child Captured in Paul Child’s Shimmering Photographs” , published a couple of days ago in the New Yorker.
If you’re having a coffee break today, I strongly urge you to read the book review itself, which you can jump to by clicking on here. Isn’t it beautifully written? I love the sentence summing up the book:
“it’s extraordinary to see a collection of photographs in which a fiercely talented and accomplished woman is presented with humor, admiration, and love.”
Here are a few excerpts from the book review which stay with me:
The endless sun of these photographs, is Julia. He can’t keep his eyes off her.
Before he met her, broken hearted by the death of his former partner, Paul writes to his brother “When am I going to meet a grown-up dame with beauty, character, sophistication, and sensibility?” Julia McWilliams had a desk in the next office.
In later years, he recalled, “It wasn’t like lightning striking the barn on fire. I just began to think, my God, this is a hell of a nice woman.” She described herself as “a rather loud and unformed social butterfly.”
It was Paul, on that first afternoon in Rouen, who introduced her to that most intimate of languages, gastronomy.
Cynthia’s comment on one photo: She’s laughing. She looks like a woman with an appetite.
Living in the Now
This is where the book review chimes with what I’m reading and thinking about at the moment – how to live in the now – not distracted by past or waiting for the future, but completely in the moment, enjoying it for what it is. I think that ties in with the statement “she looks like a woman with an appetite.” Appetite is now – if you look at the photo above of Julia bending over the table, intent on a dish – there is that focus of being involved in the moment with something you love, totally engaged. Absorbed. As you are with some thing you love and enjoy.
You can also see it in the featured photo at the top of this post – where Julia is standing, with a whipped mix in a saucepan, putting it to her tongue with her finger. You can almost taste the mixture. The picture is a coalescence of a professional chef appraising her work and the natural instinct and joy of being a small child licking the baking spoon.
Cynthia Zarin actually met and interviewed Julia Childs in 2001, over lunch made by Julia, which was obviously enjoyable foodwise and just wise-wise, as Julia looking back on a packed life, mused:
“All happiness depends on courage and work.’ That’s Balzac for you,”