Thursday, August 13, 2009

Julia Child made me write this blog

It's true. She appeared to me in a dream, held a wire whip to my head, and said, "Blog, woman, blog!"

Okay, it wasn't quite like that. But I thought it was time to pay homage to the great dame, now that the film Julie and Julia has been released in the States. The film stars Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as me. Oops. I mean as Julie Powell, the New York woman who blogged about cooking through Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (My mother went to see the film and said, "I kept looking at Amy Adams and thinking she was you, sweetie!" So once I finish Accidental Parisian: The Novel and sell the film rights, we'll have to give Amy a call. Reese Witherspoon will undoubtedly be disappointed, but that's just life. Romain Duris will play my handsome French hubby).

Anyway... Julia Child really did inspire this blog. Here's the long story. I had been really frustrated and down on myself and on France for my first few months here. MCM and I went to my parents' house in Massachusetts for Christmas and had a great time - we really benefited from the break, the fun, the time with my very warm and exuberant family. We made a great day trip to Boston where we saw the fabulous Tara Donovan show at the ICA, which completely restored my hope in contemporary art (in my book, she is in league with Barbara Hepworth and Anish Kapoor). We then went to a lobster shack on the pier and had chowder, beer and lobster rolls. It was, in total, a wicked awesome day.

Waiting for the train home at South Station, I started browsing the little book stand and made an uncharacteristic splurge on two paperback books - two books which filled two big voids in my brain. I have a huge stack of publishers' catalogues in my office here; how ironic that I found these two most helpful books in my hometown, in a train station of all places. The first was Linda Colley's biography of Elizabeth Marsh, a masterly work of world history that really inspired me and helped me to make the finishing touches on my own book manuscript, with which I had become frustrated in the final edit.

The second was My Life in France, Julia Child's memoir written with her nephew shortly before her death. Here she was arriving in France after World War Two, a newlywed, unable to work, living on a tight budget, not knowing anyone, literally sticking out in the Paris streets as she was a good foot taller than many French women. She even laboured on an intensely-researched book, with the frustration, loneliness and sense of accomplishment that comes with it.

The parallels with my own life here were strong, except that Paris was considerably less cosmopolitan at the time - if I was feeling self-conscious in 2008, how would I have done fifty years earlier? But the point is, Julia embodied what I've come to see as a great quality in American women: enthusiastic determination to succeed, even if that means looking a bit goofy in the process. She threw herself into mastering, not just French cooking, but France itself. She made French friends. She threw fun parties. She got annoyed with French chauvinism.

The book made me decide it was time to pull myself up by my bootstraps, seize the day, and stop feeling sorry for myself. I decided that I would start a blog to vent, chronicle and reflect on what I was experiencing here. It's worked: I'm much happier now than when I started writing. So thank you, Julia Child.


In other cooking-related news, my sister D just sent MCM and me our birthday presents: his-and-hers aprons that she made herself! I'm absolutely thrilled because they are the most adorable thing I've ever seen. Here's me modelling my super girly one:

Love it! Unfortunately the photo's a bit dark so you can't see the lovely gathering on the top. You're a genius, D.


  1. Oh you got them, yay! I'm so glad you like the aprons!

    I think Mum is right about Amy Adams - she would make a great AP!


  2. When I was younger, and saw the aged Julia Child, I was completely turned off. More to my shame! After reading My Life in France, I have immensely more esteem for her persistance and talent.

    Miss Chef and I are hoping to see J&J this weekend. We've both read the book, and Miss Chef luuurrves Meryl Streep. At last; I'll know what you look like! lol

    Ok, now I want to see a picture of you sweeping off your front stoop with your apron on.

  3. I love the apron (and the shoes)! I will put my new little sewing machine to good use and make myself one (an apron, not a shoe).

    Romain Duris is a very good choice. In the movie of my life, I will be played by Katherine Heigl and my better half will be played by Matt Damon, of course.

    I'm ashamed to say that, despite having spent weeks of my life watching cooking shows on TV, I have never seen a Julia Child show. They just were not on TV in Canada or the UK. I am going to see J&J as soon as it comes out here though!

  4. You can watch clips Julia Child's show on YouTube! I think the film comes out in the UK in September.

    Flartus, hope you and Miss Chef enjoy it.

  5. The apron is so beautiful and as for Romain Duris , well is so yummy!
    Great blog by the way. Although this my first comment here , I've been reading it almost from the beginning.

  6. We did go see the movie this weekend, and it was wonderful. Can't say enough about Meryl Streep; and how wonderful to see husbands onscreen who are *not* clueless, self-centered clods.

    When I realized the majority of the audience was white women "d'un certain age," I realized I absolutely must recommend this movie to my mother!

  7. I loved J&J. I took my mother to see it last week, it was a great mother-daughter film. We used to watch Julia Child all the time on PBS, and I remember being utterly fascinated by her.

  8. I have same done with you as she appeared to me in a dream, held a wire whip to my head, and said, "Blog, woman, blog!".Now i have decided to make blog from this.



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