I’d been reading Noel Riley Fitch’s biography of Julia Child, Appetite for Life, this summer when the great lady died. Although Fitch overworks the little-girl-in-a-patriarchal-world angle and perhaps (though I’m not educated enough to know) the McCarthy angle (the Childs’ social circle in Europe was rather affected by the senator’s Commie-hunting), she eventually gets out of the way of her story. What emerges is a terrific biography of a woman who really did go about the business of living with singular gusto.
Growing up, I had only known the parody version of Julia Child, some lame-o TV cook with a bird stuck in her throat. Reading Fitch—usually on the Metro to and from work—I’ve fallen in love with the woman.
Perhaps what I admire most is that Child found a way to be a great and energetic spouse and a great professional at the same time. No little credit for her accomplishment was due to her wonderful husband, Paul Child, a very interesting guy in his own right. His love of fine food and intellectual things played an important role in spurring her to reach higher, to take an interest in politics and art, and, most importantly, to learn to cook.
Their households in Europe during the writing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking were visited by writers, foreign service types, artists, chefs. And theirs was a profoundly loving marriage in which both improved the other, proof that two can be so much more than one plus one. Oh, to have been a guest at their table.
The Food Network is, appropriately, doing a tribute to Julia Child Sunday night (8/22) from 7 to 10 EST.
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