I fell in love over the weekend. While Joe was out helping friends move Saturday, and press apples into cider with Nathan yesterday, I wasn’t feeling well and cuddled up, somewhat guiltily, with Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France, and I fell in love with her, her husband, her life. Over the summer there was a newfound interest in her, with the release of the movie Julie & Julia, and a friend loaned me the Julia memoir and said she thought it was something I’d like, and was she ever right. From bringing back my own reminisces of our sadly-short week in Paris to the picture of her poussiequette (pussycat–and I will always say it the French way from now on) on the kitchen counter and subsequent cat stories, to her detailed descriptions of all their meals, I loved it. (The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the promotional pictures plastered all over the cover for the above mentioned movie, which didn’t feel right to me, seeing Meryl Streep as Julia on the outside and filled with real pictures of her on the inside. But, hey, it’s not my book. Were it my choice, I would have gone and bought an original.)
Amazingly, I do not own a Julia Child cookbook in my collection of nearly a hundred cookbooks, (my son hasn’t shaken his head at me and counted them lately, so not sure on the current number) nor do I recall ever seeing her cooking show The French Chef — not my working mom’s type of thing. I’m afraid I probably didn’t know much about her until Dan Akroyd’s skit of her on SNL. Oh, I had a Trivial Pursuit kind of knowledge of her, “Woman most noted for popularizing French cooking in the US,” or something like that, and a mighty respect from an amateur kinda-gourmet cook’s view, but now I feel like I really know who she was.
The book is essentially a love story, beginning with her newfound passion for all things French, in particular food, and her newlywed husband. The book evolves into her love for teaching and writing, too — what she called working on her “cookery-bookery” — but what truly opened my heart to this book was her relationship with her husband, and how I felt this poignant parallel with her marriage and my own. For one, her husband is creative, and a photographer, as is mine. He’s supportive of her every move, from deciding to take classes at Le Cordon Bleu to writing a cookbook. In every new place they move into he outlines all her pots and pans on a pegboard and hangs it up for her, her batterie de cuisine, and one time when she’s spent all this time on a special cake for a party she gets frustrated with the final decorating touches and he steps in and does it for her. That is so Joe (and Lori)! They were a great working team, calling themselves “Pulia.” They were unable to have children, but just went forward loving each other and the life they had, like we did. When they had people over for dinner they went all out, “treating them like royalty” and I believe that’s what we try to do. But what almost made me cry was when I turned a page and there was a two-page spread of some of the Valentine’s Day cards (they always ran out of time at Christmas) they made and sent out to hundreds of friends each year. A portion of one is on the original book cover up there. I ran outside to sticky-fingered cider-pressing Joe and said “Look, look, they did cards like our Christmas cards!” I was rewarded with a steamy (literally, as it was cold outside) kiss and a deeply dimpled smile, and left with a need to cook something French.