birthday treat: jessie hartland on bon appétit! (and a giveaway!)

Jessie in her kitchen (photo by Isabelle Dervaux).

Bonjour Mes Amis, et Bon Anniversaire, Julia!

We’re tickled pink that award-winning author, illustrator and commercial artist Jessie Hartland is here today to help us celebrate Julia Child’s 100th Birthday. Her graphic biography, Bon Appétit!: The Delicious Life of Julia Child (Schwartz & Wade, 2012), has everyone drooling with delirious delight.

Since its release in May, this exuberant feast of wacky-fun hand-lettered text and cartoony gouache paintings has earned a bevy of well-deserved accolades, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

And why not? In just 48 pages, Jessie has accomplished the seemingly impossible, chronicling Julia’s entire amazing life!: as a “gangly girl from Pasadena,” her prankster days at Smith College, her stint doing Top Secret work for the OSS in WWII and marrying bon vivant Paul Child, learning to cook at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, traveling to Germany and Norway, writing and publishing her cookbook masterpiece, and finally launching her TV chef career. Yes, it’s all here, in this frenetic comic-scrapbook hybrid that perfectly captures Julia’s boundless energy and contaigious joie de vivre. There’s even a 32-step recipe for Chicken Galantine (“Here’s a little something I just whipped up!”) and Jessie’s very own recipe for Crepes. I’m sure Julia would get a kick out of every scrumptious detail. Formidable!

Before we hear from Jessie, please put on this Ecole des Trois Gourmandes badge in honor of Julia. She first wore it when she and her co-authors Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle started their cooking school in Paris, and Julia continued to wear it on “The French Chef.” Thanks to Julia, we can all be Hearty Eaters!

Designed by Paul Child

Now, please help me welcome Jessie Hartland to Alphabet Soup. We thank her for sharing all her wonderful personal photos and insights about creating this marvelous book!

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Jessie hiked all around Cap Ferrat.

Ooh-la-la! You traveled to Paris and Provence to research this book. What were some of the highlights of your trip? Which places and/or experiences proved to be the most helpful and inspiring for this project? Was this your first visit to France?

I’m lucky to have been to France a number of times. My husband has French cousins and we have been to weddings, birthday parties and reunions. I have zig-zagged the country, by train and by car from Brittany and Normandy, through Paris, down to Provence. Some culinary hi-points include: a nougat factory in Montelimar (a nougat-crazy town with dozens of small factories), a chevre farm in Normandy,  the Moet+ Chandon Champagne tour in Epernay, the watercress soup in Veules-les-Roses, and the famous farmer’s market in Nice (where Julia shopped!).

Berries at the Nice Farmers Market
Seafood in Brittany
Cap d’Antibes

On this last trip I visited the many art hot-spots near Nice: Fondation Maeght, the Matisse Chapel, Musee Picasso in Antibes and the Cocteau Chapel.

Ceramic Platers at the Musee Picasso
Mosaic from the Cocteau Chapel
Citroen (cute, no?)

Please describe, in mouthwatering detail, your favorite meal in France.

No one meal stands out the way Julia’s lunch at La Couronne did but I’ve enjoyed moules-frites in Paris,  soupe au poisson in Villesfranche-sur-Mer, poulet-fricassee near Uzes, Provence;  soupe au pistou in Biot, the perfect jambon cru sandwich in Chartres, and a rich and creamy ile flotante in Ceret.

Bon Appétit! is brimming with the kind of specific, quirky details kids love (size 12 shoes! jelly doughnut! cleaning a pig’s ears and teeth!). Please share a favorite/funny/surprising anecdote about Julia that didn’t make it into the book.

The part I miss cutting most is a page when Julia has just moved to Germany and hasn’t yet mastered the language. She’s working on the poultry chapter of MTAOFC and must visit a German butcher to buy ingredients. She flaps her “wings” and honks and quacks to communicate. The butcher responds, “Ach! Das Gans.”   “Ya! Das Huhn!”

Like so many of us, you grew up watching episodes of “The French Chef.” Did this spark an interest in cooking when you were little? What was the first thing you made all by yourself?

I hated the spongy pancakes from a boxed mix, drowned in icky syrup, that my mom made so I insisted on making my own pancakes, the French kind. Crepes!

Yes, I liked to watch “The French Chef.”

My mother did not like to cook and I enjoyed watching someone who did.

Instead of cooking, my mom busied herself with puppet-making and dollhouse constructing. For Christmas, when I was 7, she built me a brilliant French cafe dollhouse complete with tiny foods and menus in French! It got me started on France, cooking and Julia Child.

You describe yourself as an avid cook. Do you use Julia’s cookbooks a lot? If so, which recipes do you make most often? Which have been the most challenging? 

I probably make her onion soup most often though one New Year’s Eve I made a grand entrance with Julia’s famous Bûche de Noël, the yule log cake, decorated with marzipan leaves and meringue mushrooms. It took all day to make. For a real challenge, serve Julia’s pickled calf’s udder and truffle-decorated chicken galantine—from my book—and follow it with this cake.

Jessie’s famous Buche de Noel

I love your offbeat humor, especially the “When Harry Met Sally” reference in your spread about Julia’s “meal of awakening” at La Couronne. Are there any other noteworthy cultural or personal references in the book you’re especially fond of?

I always try to sneak my black standard poodle, Django, into my books. She’s there!

Can you find Django in this spread?

What’s your favorite spread from the book and why? Do you usually write and illustrate simultaneously? 

Yes—it’s indeed optimal to both write AND illustrate a book as one can include bits that make for the best art. Yes— I write and sketch simultaneously, always trying to make the best spread, visually. I especially like the  Marseille spread, as I love the sea and love bouillabaisse!

Why do you think Julia and her cookbooks are more popular than ever, despite the fact that we are a rushed, fast-food, instant-everything microwave society? If you could see her today, what would you ask her?

Cooking and eating well are more popular today due to the Food Network and other food shows. And the popular movie, “Julie and Julia” introduced Julia Child to a younger audience who now knows that Julia wrote pioneering, and still best-selling cookbooks and was the first with a cooking show.  And although busy people can take many cooking short-cuts, with take-out and prepared foods, when they do cook they reach for a classic cookbook like “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

I would invite Julia fishing on my boat to catch some local fluke and then prepare dinner together using fresh lettuces, vegetables and herbs from my garden. And we’d have a fine tart made with home-grown raspberries.

Jessie’s stove (photo by Isabelle Dervaux)
Dinner is served. Bon Appetit! (photo by Isabelle Dervaux)

Anything else you’d like to add? 

It was the greatest of pleasures reading everything and anything about Julia and then simplifying the material and selecting the best visuals for a young audience. It was a dream job!

I had the idea for this book years ago and it was rejected all over town.  The response being that  no one cares about Julia Child anymore. Nora Ephron’s movie changed that!

I’m so happy to have been able to do the book.

What’s next for you?

A similar book —– about Steve Jobs. Same publisher, Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint at Random House.

He’s another fascinating character: rebellious,  intuitive, ingenious…

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♥ Check out Jessie Hartland’s Official Website to learn more about her other children’s books and commercial projects.

Click here to see Jessie’s Choice – Top Ten Julia Child Recipes.

♥ Don’t miss this wonderful interview with Jessie at Got Story Countdown to see more spreads and sketches, with notes about her illustration process.

photo by Isabelle Dervaux

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BON APPETIT!: The Delicious Life of Julia Child
written and illustrated by Jessie Hartland
published by Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012
Picture Book Biography/Graphic Biography for all ages, 48 pp.
Cool themes: chefs, cooking, food, France, feminism

** Bon Appétit! is a Junior Library Guild Selection **


For a chance to win a brand new copy of Bon Appétit, simply leave a comment at this post telling us what your favorite French food is no later than midnight (EDT), August 21, 2012. Extra entries for tweeting, FBing, blogging, etc. (mention in your comment). You can also enter by sending an email with “JULIA” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. U.S. residents only, please. Good luck!

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♥ Tomorrow: Julia’s Cherry Clafouti


*Spreads from Bon Appétit! posted by permission, text and illustrations copyright © 2012 Jessie Hartland, published by Schwartz & Wade Books. All rights reserved.

**Unless otherwise credited, all photos copyright © 2012 Jessie Hartland.

Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


54 thoughts on “birthday treat: jessie hartland on bon appétit! (and a giveaway!)

  1. Jama dearest, another fantabulicious post! Lovely interview, as always, with the upbeat energy level and the witty repartee that is distinctly you. So many beautiful photos that Jessie generously shared with all of us as well. Those page spreads from the book are simply glorious.

    You know that I have a special affinity with picture book biographies, and this sounds like one that I should definitely look for. I haven’t had a chance to visit France yet, and I am not certain whether the meals I have tasted are authentic French cuisine, but I would go for French crepes as my absolute favorite.


    1. “fantabulicious” = you’ve coined another word, Myra 🙂

      Aren’t Jessie’s photos and spreads wonderful? There’s so much energy and humor in this book, which is great for adult Julia fans as well as kids.

      Crepes = always a good choice. Right about now, I’d like a banana nutella crepe for breakfast! Though I wouldn’t refuse strawberries and whipped cream . . . :9


  2. such a great post. i loved learning about this one in particular. she was a fascinating person – who knew she led such an interesting life?

    as for food, i’m going to have to go with french toast as well. although i’m up for trying anything and i would LOVE to travel to france one day and sample my way through the countryside, i would never turn down a crispy piece of french toast, lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar with warm syrup. never.


    1. Mmmm, you’ve all got me craving french toast now. I like to make it with Hawaiian sweet bread. Like you, I’d love to eat my way through the French countryside and visit all the patisseries in Paris!


  3. @ Jama & Jessie: My mouth is absolutely watering like the monsters on the Simpsons! As it’s early morning at this end, I have a craving for one of Julia’s apple tarts, La Tarte Tatin

    Bon appetit . . .
    [and i hope i can win a book too]


    1. Mmmm, tarte tatin! Thanks for the video link, Joy. There’s an interesting story behind the origin of tarte tatins. French sisters!


  4. I think this post and the sharing of Jessie Hartland’s book is oo la la! It’s all good enough to eat. I’m heading over to Twitter with a link to this post and making sure I get a copy of the book. I love Creme Brulee. Thanks to you both.


  5. So great that Nora Ephron’s movie turned things around – this book looks adorable! And I think my fave French food might be creme caramel (basically, French flan) – I ordered it lots of places in France, and it’s always yummy.


    1. I like both creme caramel and creme brûlée, but never had either in France. Need to remedy that! I also need to see “Julie and Julia” again and read more of Nora’s writing! 🙂


    1. Thanks for commenting, Hanaa. It’s great to make a pile of crepes and freeze them so they’ll be there to whip out whenever you’re in the mood for either something sweet or savory. 🙂


  6. I’m fairly new to your blog and absolutely loved this piece–the writing, the interview, the pictures. Couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the orange cookware on Jesse’s stove. I want that cookware–all of it!

    Keep writing…


    1. Hi again, Kathleen! Happy you enjoyed the post — isn’t Jessie great? Her stove and her cookware really make you want to cook something delicious right away, don’t they?


      1. Absolutely, Jama. When I worked in a cafe for a few years, our favorite pot was one of the big orange ones that the owner found in a thrift shop. Everything cooked beautifully in it.


  7. I’m a day late! I have to get this together, job & commenting, but I couldn’t ‘not’ comment on this wondrous book and the way you presented it, Jama. It’s just such fun to see how different people approach their creative projects, and this wave of Julia love is something to really appreciate. My favorite food, & I’ve made several, the buche de noel. I am lucky to have a French bakery in my area, so I can purchase one at the holidays now, although creating one is quite entertaining. They are wonderful, & Jessie’s picture looks scrumptious! Thank you!


    1. I bow to you, Linda, for making your own buche de noel! I always see them during the holidays and admire those who create them, but never thought to make my own.


  8. Great 2-CV car you have there with the red and white paint job! My mom used to have one that was a petroleum blue– not as fun. I have to see more of the French pictures…


  9. What a fab interview! The roast turkey recipe in Julia’s THE WAY TO COOK is the only one I’ll ever make. Loved Jessie’s book. And I love the photos that accompanied this post. I’m planning my next Europe trip and now I think I have to rethink … Instead of returning to Denmark, I may have to go south and shop in the Nice farmers’ market, just like Julia.


    1. Oh, jealous that you’re going to Europe! How exciting! I love Nice and went there years ago, but didn’t see the farmer’s markets. Such a beautiful part of the world. 🙂


  10. Wonderful post, as always! My favorite French food is something I had in Nice about 40 years ago (eek): Pan Bagnat

    (But I have to say, that colorful root vegetable dish looks beyond fantastic!)


  11. So, you went to Nice as an infant? 🙂 Pan Bagnat? Must investigate.

    Wonder what that dish is. Must ask Jessie. I see a whole chili pepper in there.


  12. Jama—– thanks for the beautiful job with this interview and laying out the photos. It’s very touching. And thank you for bringing attention to my book. It’s wonderful to see that people are enjoying reading it. Last Wednesday I was in DC doing a signing at the Smithsonian and I met some relatives of Julia Child’s and got some nice comments here and there about my book. But the best compliment of all came from a woman who had worked with Julia for many years, and now runs the JC Foundation. She said she thought that– if Julia were here today– she would love the book! By-the-way: MOST of that Le Creuset is from yard sales!


    1. Jessie, I’m thrilled for you — it must have been AMAZING being at the Smithsonian last week and meeting Julia’s relatives, and especially getting that high compliment from the JCF head! Wow. I can just picture Julia chuckling over all the funny bits in your book and loving every detail. You just nailed her exuberance and larger-than-life profile.

      It’s been a wonderful, wonderful 100th birthday celebration — I’ve so enjoyed reading all the tributes and recipe posts online — I imagine she might be surprised, but delighted by, all the attention and love expressed by fans all over the country.

      Your Le Creuset collection is wonderful — and I’m impressed that you got most of the pieces through yard sales! Thanks again for doing this interview :)!


  13. Appears I’m waaaay too late to enter & win a signed copy, but what a terrific interview & great photos! I have a couple of Jessie’s children’s books which I love. A good friend just bought “Bon Appetit” the other day and it is so fun & frenetic!! She doesn’t hold back and her images & style really stand out bc of it.
    Years ago Jessie painted murals for a children’s store called “Blue Bench” and my friend, who worked there, said she was very nice, so I emailed her questions about illustrating & custom work. She got right back to me, thus adding to my already high opinion of her. I can’t wait to see what she does with Steve Jobs’ story.
    ps Glad I found your blog 🙂


    1. Hi Allyn!

      Nice to meet another Jessie fan — you’re absolutely right, what I love about Jessie is she never holds back. So much energy in her pictures!

      Yes, she was also very nice about doing this interview despite her very busy schedule promoting the book during Julia’s birthday month. I feel the same as you — it definitely elevated my opinion of her as a person and an artist!

      Just checked out your blog — love your work too! Thanks for finding Alphabet Soup :).


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