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!
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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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!).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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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♥ JESSIE’S CREPES! ♥
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♥ ENCORE! ♥
♥ 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.
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BON APPÉTIT!: 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 **
* * * SPECIAL GIVEAWAY! * * *
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.