I did not grow up with Julia Child on our television. Though my parents liked to cook, the cookbooks in our house and the shows on our local PBS station were The Victory Garden and The Frugal Gourmet, rather than The French Chef, In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, or Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home. Consequently, up until 2009, my mental image of Julia Child wasn’t even Julia Child. It was Dan Aykroyd impersonating Julia Child on Saturday Night Live. That changed abruptly in 2009 when I saw Julie & Julia for the first time. Though I thought the idea of cooking your way through “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” intriguing, I was enchanted by Meryl Streep’s Julia. Could the real thing possibly be as good as Streep made her out to be?
Enter “Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child.” As it turns out, the real thing is even better.
“Dearie” spans the entirety of Julia’s life, even briefly filling you in on her parents’ familial history. It provides a wonderful sense of who Julia was as a person. I very much enjoyed reading about Julia and her husband Paul’s (amazing) relationship, Julia’s activism in advancing women in the culinary arts, her dedication to her craft, and her vehement refusal to let anyone try to turn her into a corporate sponsor. I was amazed to learn about her family’s wealthy background, as well as Julia’s apparent lack of interest in food or cooking until relatively late in life. It gives me great hope as an aspiring cook that she began cooking in her 30s, and was something of a fiasco in the kitchen to begin with.
I can’t say I was as enthralled with Spitz’s writing as I was with his portrayal of Julia herself. Though I eventually couldn’t put it down, “Dearie” starts off rather slowly and I found the first 100 pages or so quite boring, and very repetitive. I was occasionally confused about chronology, as the author occasionally presented things out of chronological order, but didn’t indicate that fact until quite a bit into the digression. These technical problems did not in the least ruin the book for me, though they did tweak my nerves a bit.
“Dearie” is a good read for Julia fans, for people interested in food, or possibly even people interested in the history of haute cuisine in America and American eating habits.