Chatting with Author Erin Hagar about Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures

I’m doubly excited to welcome Baltimore-based author Erin Hagar to Alphabet Soup: her very first published children’s book hits shelves today, and it’s about one of my favorite people, Julia Child!

Though there have been several good picture books about Julia published in recent years,  solidly researched middle grade biographies about her are few and far between. Not only is Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures (DuoPress, 2015) a lively, engaging read, it contains six beautiful full-page watercolor illustration sequences by Joanna Gorham interspersed between chapters.

Erin traces Julia’s life from her childhood as a fun-loving prankster in Pasadena to her death in 2004 as a much beloved cookbook author, teacher, and television celebrity. We read about how Julia met and fell in love with Paul Child while working overseas for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), how when they moved to France Julia discovers her life’s passion and attends Le Cordon Bleu, how she started a cooking school and collaborated on Mastering the Art of French Cooking with Simone Beck Fischbacher and Louisette Bertholle, and finally, how she launched her television career on WGBH Boston.

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Author Chat: Kyo Maclear on Julia, Child (+ a giveaway!)

Look what’s officially hitting shelves today!

This charming, whimsical tale very loosely inspired by the real life friendship of Julia Child and Simone Beck is cooked to fingertip-kissing perfection and definitely has my name written all over it.

I literally squealed with delight when I first saw Julie Morstad’s scrumptious, I-could-just-eat-you-all-up ink, gouache and Photoshop illos — so many adorable details and the childlike sophistication is oh-so-français. 🙂

True, this book had me at the cover, but when I read Kyo Maclear’s spritely celebration of good food, friendship, fearlessly pursuing your passions, growing young, and never forgetting how to have a marvelous time, I could almost hear the real Julia’s rousing cheer, chirrup and hoot of approval. After all, it was she who said, “That’s what human life is all about — enjoying things.”

In Julia, Child (Tundra Books, 2014), we meet cooking buddies Julia and Simca, who firmly believe it’s “best to be a child forever” and are therefore dismayed by all the big, busy, hurried, “wary and worried” grown-ups around them.

Art © 2014 Julie Morstad

What to do? Cook special ‘growing young’ recipes, of course. They whip up a delectable feast complete with “fluffy clouds of cheese soufflé,” “perfect loaves of crusty baguette,” and “a golden compote of fresh peaches, sweet as summer sunlight . . . ” Magnifique!

The big busy people devour every morsel, but something isn’t right. Talk about greedy and grabby! Can the girls come up with another recipe to turn these adults into sensible children once again?

I’m so pleased Toronto-based author Kyo Maclear is here today to talk about this mouthwatering story, her best job ever, and what she’s learned from her children. Put on your best bib, help yourself to some Wonder Seeds, and bask in the joie de vivre. Bon Appétit!

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a little julia childish lunch, or, filling a tall order

Chef Ris Lacoste (front left) hosted Julia’s 90th birthday dinner at 1789 in 2002 (via Washington Post).

The Sunday after Julia’s 100th birthday, Len and I had lunch at RIS, an “upscale neighborhood café,” located in the Foggy Bottom district of Washington, D.C. I thought it would be fun to eat at one of the places participating in National Julia Child Restaurant Week.

Ris exterior via Laura Padgett

Besides, it was a good chance to check out RIS, the culmination of Chef Ris Lacoste’s illustrious two decade career in the D.C. area, where among other things, she served as Executive Chef at one of our favorite restaurants, 1789 in Georgetown. Ris (short for ‘Doris’), first met Julia when she was 26 and Julia was 70, as she was graduating from La VaRenne Écôle de Cuisine in Paris. Over the years, Ris encountered Julia many times; Julia frequented a couple of the restaurants Ris worked at in New England, and there were many meetings, dinners and other official events associated with the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF).

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friday feast: julia’s recipe for love

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” ~ Julia Child

Julia with her husband Paul Child in California, 1951 (courtesy of Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University).

He was ten years older, a worldly intellect, artist, poet, photographer and connoisseur of fine wine and cuisine who spoke fluent French. He thought she was “wildly emotional” and “unfocused,” and, “brave about being an old maid.”

She was a 30-something-year-old late bloomer, six foot two (or three or four) to his five foot ten, who preferred sports and socializing to academics, a self-professed “hungry hayseed” far more comfortable wielding golf clubs and tennis racquets than knives or whisks. She was disappointed in his “light hair which is not on top, an unbecoming blond mustache and a long unbecoming nose.”

After they met working for the OSS, food brought them closer — curry luncheons forging a friendship in Ceylon, Chinese meals fanning the flames in Kunming, a French luncheon of sole meunière in Rouen sparking a lifelong passion that would ultimately instigate a food revolution in America.

Just goes to show what a good man and the right meal can do.

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julia’s cherry clafouti and a side of ham

“It’s fun to get together and have something good to eat at least once a day. That’s what human life is all about — enjoying things.” ~ Julia Child

Something magical happens whenever I make a Julia Child recipe that doesn’t happen with Martha, Mario, Giada or anyone else.

I hear Joooolia’s voice — cheery, chirpy, hooting and emphatic, reading aloud all the ingredients, explaining what I should do every step of the way, reminding me, “Above all, have a good time!”

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”

Making french bread on “The French Chef,” Episode 222, 1971, photo by Paul Child (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University)

Phew! I’m glad she said that, because I wasn’t planning to tackle her 15-page French Bread recipe any time soon. It’s summer, the living is easy, and Julia has just the thing for those of us clamoring for an easy sweet fix. Oui oui, clafoutis!

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