Wednesday, August 15, 2012
If you haven't yet read Bon Appetit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland (Schwartz and Wade) I urge you to go out tout de suite and get a copy. Schwartz and Wade may be a publishing imprint devoted to children but do not for one second think that this wonderful, whimsical, packed-with-facts book isn't for adults. It is, as stated on the inside jacket, for "all ages," and I think it is nothing less than a work of art. "The BOOK comes out! The year is 1961," Hartland writes about the 734-page Mastering the Art of French Cooking. "The writing is clear and precise, the design uncluttered and easy to read. For the first time, cookbook illustrations are drawn from the cook's viewpoint. The recipes are foolproof. They talk the beginning cook through classic French recipes, explaining every detail. Reviewers and chefs -- and home cooks -- call it a MASTERPIECE."
Julia passed away in 2004 at the age of 91, and as Hartland reminds us at the close of her book, Julia "taught and inspired millions of people to cook." Like those million others, I was hugely inspired by Julia, and my copy of MTAOFC is just as stained and worn as everybody else's copies. But most inspiring to me are words from Julia's The Way to Cook (Knopf, 1992) so inspiring that I feature them on page 297 in my Paris book. I won't type it in full here, but under the heading of "fear of food, indulgences, and small helpings" Julia wisely notes that "the pleasures of the table -- that lovely old-fashioned phrase -- depict food as an art form, as a delightful part of civilized life. In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal."
Also in my Paris book, on pages 524 - 535, I feature a chapter from a terrific book, Out of the Kitchen: Adventures of a Food Writer (John Daniel and Company, 2004) by Jeannette Ferrary. The chapter appears in the 'Personalities' section of my book as it recounts the time Jeannette was helping Julia prep for a cooking demonstration and book signing at Macy's San Francisco in 1985 (that's Jeannette in the photo above). Jeannette, by her own admission, claims she had no idea what she was doing, but if you read her warm and wonderful book, and I hope you will, you'll see that she knows plenty about cooking -- she is also coauthor, with Louise Fiszer, of six cookbooks, and author of M. F. K. Fisher and Me (Thomas Dunne, 1998), and she teaches food writing at Stanford University and the University of California Berkeley. Ferrary has also been a columnist for The New York Times and a book and restaurant reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle (one book she reviewed is How Blue-Blooded Julia Child Became a Red-Blooded French Chef by Noel Riley Fitch).
I've not yet met Jeannette, but we've been corresponding by e-mail over the last few days, and today she is going to make a blueberry clafoutis from MTAOFC, and an article she wrote about Julia appears in the August/September issue of Gastronomica.
In honor of the day, I'm heading out now to one of New York City's Greenmarkets -- which I know Julia would love -- to pick up provisions for dinner.
Cheers to Julia, Jeannette, and my dear sister, Jenniffer! (and yes, that's spelled with two ns and two fs)