“Those early years in France were among the best of my life. They marked a crucial period of transformation in which I found my true calling, experienced an awakening of the senses, and had such fun that I hardly stopped moving long enough to catch my breath.” ~Julia Child (My Life in France, 2006).
When it comes to big appetites, Julia Child is hard to beat.
Beyond food, Julia craved knowledge, adventure, and travel, and she thrived on excellence. Large in stature with an outsized personality to match, Julia took a big, juicy bite out of life and wholeheartedly shared her largesse.
In this delectable new picture book biography, Julia’s grandnephew Alex Prud’homme highlights Julia’s early years in France, a time when she found love, discovered her true calling, and worked hard to achieve her goals of becoming a good cook and beloved teacher.
We’re first introduced to Julia McWilliams as a physically active, 6’2”, voraciously curious force of nature. Because her parents had a cook, she never saw the point of spending any time in the kitchen.
I was born hungry, not a cook.
She’d “always dreamed of having adventures and becoming a famous writer.” During WWII she volunteered as a clerk typist for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Ceylon. It was there that she met her future husband, Paul Child, a painter, photographer, and bon vivant who had lived in Paris and could speak fluent French.
They got on very well despite their differences: he was ten years older, shorter, and “much quieter.” But they bonded over a mutual love of “food, books, and travel.”
Paul encouraged Julia to try foods from around the world; she encouraged him to take an elephant ride. She still couldn’t cook, but she did create her first recipe – for shark repellent!
After the war, Julia and Paul moved back to America and got married. Determined to be a good wife, she took cooking lessons to impress Paul. Her first meal, cow brains simmered in red wine, was a disaster because she’d rushed through the recipe. This only made her more determined than ever to become a better cook.
A couple of years later, they traveled to France for Paul’s new job at the U.S. Embassy. En route to Paris, they stopped at La Couronne in Rouen for lunch. Not just any lunch, of course, but the famous sole meunière meal that would prove life changing.
Julia inhaled the wonderful aroma of fish cooked in butter. Then she took a bite of the sole, experienced ‘a magnificent burst of flavor,’ and closed her eyes. She had never tasted anything so fresh and delicious. She tried to chew slowly, to savor every morsel, but the lunch was so good that she gobbled it down.Continue reading