Without intending to, I’ve been on a bit of a reading hiatus. I’ve started a few that I actually intend on finishing, but just couldn’t fully get into them. Thankfully, dear Julia came to the rescue. I put my name in the library queue for this last year, probably in September, and it finally made it to the top of the list. This can be blamed on the fact that, if you look at the sticker on the cover, I read the LARGE PRINT edition, of which there is only one copy. But, alas, as silver linings abound under this red roof, the book arrived in the right state, at just the right time. I felt so gloomy last Monday, wondering about my life. Then, when I started to read this boisterously large print, it was like having Julia’s effervescent personality reading aloud to me, the words bright, lively, and heartfelt. The two of us sat in my favorite chair, while she told me all about her remembrances of la belle France, delicious food, and the perils of finding direction a bit later in life, for much like me, Julia Child knew what she didn’t want before she knew what she wanted, and then everything just felt right.
The story moves in time, from her first view of France at Le Havre, at the age of thirty-six, to her last day, closing up her beloved getaway La Pitchoune for the last time in 1992. From her first meal to her last, Julia describes, in glorious detail, what a joy it was for her to discover French food and immerse herself completely in the mind boggling detail of its creation, the painstaking formulation of recipes, and testing, so much testing! Batch after batch of mayonnaise down the toilet, yet totally worthwhile for the knowledge and pleasure it brought her. She also writes about the perils of the publishing world, of working so hard for so long only to wonder if anyone, beyond her loved ones, would ever see the merit of her work. (Gulp.)
Though I certainly got a kick out of her love for all things French, in and out of the kitchen, it was the relationship between Julia and Paul that resonated most with me. They were such a delightful pair: witty, caring, and fun, too. They gave marvelous parties, sent charming Valentines (they weren’t organized enough to send cards at Christmas), loved each other beyond measure, supported each other through thick and thin, and were, quite simply, the best companion each could ask for.
A bit of humor and wonder in the end. The picture shows the lunch I was enjoying as I was reading. I set the book down, and realized, what I was eating – a kiwi, carrot, sliced spicy pickle, and a breaded Quorn patty, slathered in homemade “Come Back” sauce (mayo, yellow mustard, ketchup, and pickle relish) and topped with pickled peppers. Though I made the pickle and the relish, the irony of my choice, and Julia’s certain horror, made me laugh out loud. Truth be told, I can be a very lazy cook, and thought I might be doing the world and the environment a favor by eating Quorn. It’s vegetarian and doesn’t make me feel awful, like soy. Now I’m not so sure. The stuff is made in England. That’s a tad further than the farms where New Seasons gets their chicken (as our friend Hans would say, “Which is more worser?”). With that in mind, I felt inspired to make and freeze some chicken with various seasonings for other lazy lunches. I think she would approve.