Laura Shapiro Julia Child

ISBN 13: 9781422395226

Julia Child

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9781422395226: Julia Child
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A biography of Julia Child from the award-winning author of Perfection Salad

One of the most beloved figures in 20th century American culture was Julia Child, the bouyant "French Chef" who taught millions of Americans to cook with confidence and eat with pleasure. With an irrepressible sense of humor and a passion for good food, Child ushered in the nation’s culinary renaissance and became its chief icon. Unlike the great cooking teachers who preceded her, she won her audience through the revolutionary medium of television. Millions watched as she spun threads of caramel, befriended a giant monkfish, wielded live lobsters, flipped omelets and unmolded spectacular desserts. Her occasional disasters, and brilliant recoveries, were legendary. Yet every step of the way she was teaching carefully crafted lessons about ingredients, culinary technique, and why good home cooking still matters.

Award-winning food writer Laura Shapiro describes Child’s unlikely career path, from California party girl to cool-headed chief clerk in a World War II spy station to bumbling amateur cook and finally to the classes at the Cordon Bleu in Paris that changed her life. Her marriage to Paul Child was at the center of all her work. Unlike much of what has been written about Child, Shapiro portrays a woman who was quintessentially American, and whose open-hearted approach to the kitchen was a lesson in how to live.

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About the Author:

Laura Shapiro was a writer at Newsweek for more than fifteen years and has written for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Granta, and Gourmet.

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Soon after Julia and Paul settled in Paris, an old woman told Julia that France was "just one big family." As far as Julia was concerned, that family was hers. At their favorite restaurant, Michaud, she couldn't stop glancing over at a dozen people celebrating around a table spread with "innumerable courses of everything" —champagne, chickens, salads, cheeses, nuts—and everyone relaxed and goodhearted as they talked and ate and drank. "We keep being reminded of the Orient," she wrote home. "Possibly because both are cultivated old civilizations, who enjoy and have integrated the physical and the cultural things in living." Julia was at home here. The French struck her as wonderfully natural and earthy, and at the same time immensely civilized. They seemed to believe that the great pleasures of life—food, drink, sex, civility and conversation, pets, children, the splendor of Paris—were simply part of the fabric of being human, and that to enjoy them was as fundamental as breathing. Yet it was also taken for granted that stewardship of these gifts meant relishing them openly, discussing them, arguing about them, and keeping them meaningful through the very power of appreciation. Here was a whole country dedicated to being "worldly." Right away she started French lessons at Berlitz: nothing was more important to her at this stage than becoming comfortable in the language. She was ecstatically absorbing the city, all her senses wide open and craving more; and she wanted the sounds as well, that constant chatter in the shops and streets; she wanted to "talk and talk and talk" and make a place for herself in the life flowing around her. "Oh, La Vie! I love it more every day."

They found an apartment at 81, rue de l'Université, on the Left Bank of the Seine across from the place de la Concorde, in an old private house. Their rooms on the third floor were as French as the view of rooftops outside the windows. Sagging leather wallpaper, gilt chairs, moldings, and mirrors everywhere—Julia called it "late 19th century Versailles." Up a narrow flight of stairs there was a roomy kitchen with appliances so small in relation to her height that she might have been standing over a toy stove. She decided she could live right there in that apartment forever, in perfect happiness. Already she regretted missing Paris in the twenties, an era Paul had seen in person; and she pounced happily on the occasional sighting of such figures as Colette, Chanel, André Gide, and Sylvia Beach. Once, when the Childs gave a Bastille Day party, Paul invited Alice B. Toklas, whom he had met back in the twenties. She arrived, drank a glass of wine, and left. Toklas was so tiny, and wore such a wide-brimmed hat, that the only way Julia could see her face was to be sitting down while Toklas stood directly above her.

Julia spent her first months studying French, walking through the streets with a map and a dictionary, and tasting, tasting, tasting. Everything she bit into was full of exhilarating flavors: the sausages, the tarts and petits fours, the snails, the Brie, "great big juicy pears," and grapes so sweet she nearly swooned. Like most of their French and American friends in Paris, she and Paul had a maid who cooked and cleaned; but after living that way for a few months, they let her go. They hated having to show up on time for meals, and her cooking disappointed them. Julia was embarrassed to serve guests such inadequate dinners—her own could be alarming at times, but when they came off well, she took a great deal of pride in them. "Besides," she wrote home, "it is heart-rending not to go to the markets, those lovely, intimate, delicious, mouth-watering, friendly, fascinating places. How can one know the guts of the city if one doesn't do one's marketing?" So they hired a cleaning woman to come in twice a week, and Julia gladly took charge of the food. At the market, she examined pigs' heads and scrutinized fruits and vegetables, breathed in the smells of the boulangerie, carefully chose a terrine or pâté from the charcuterie, and chatted away with the shopkeepers. In France, food was a sociable enterprise: everyone had something to say about the turnips or the kidneys, and to be able to join that nationwide conversation—in French! —was Julia's bliss.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780143116448: Julia Child: A Life (Penguin Lives)

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0143116444 ISBN 13:  9780143116448
Publisher: Penguin Books, 2009
Softcover

9780670038398: Julia Child (Penguin Lives)

Viking, 2007
Hardcover

9780786296248: Julia Child (Thorndike Press Large Print Biography Series)

Thornd..., 2007
Hardcover

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