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As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto [Kindle Edition]

Joan Reardon
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)

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Book Description

With her outsize personality, Julia Child is known around the world by her first name alone. But despite that familiarity, how much do we really know of the inner Julia?
 
Now more than 200 letters exchanged between Julia and Avis DeVoto, her friend and unofficial literary agent memorably introduced in the hit movie Julie & Julia, open the window on Julia’s deepest thoughts and feelings. This riveting correspondence, in print for the first time, chronicles the blossoming of a unique and lifelong friendship between the two women and the turbulent process of Julia’s creation of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, one of the most influential cookbooks ever written.
Frank, bawdy, funny, exuberant, and occasionally agonized, these letters show Julia, first as a new bride in Paris, then becoming increasingly worldly and adventuresome as she follows her diplomat husband in his postings to Nice, Germany, and Norway.
 
With commentary by the noted food historian Joan Reardon, and covering topics as diverse as the lack of good wine in the United States, McCarthyism, and sexual mores, these astonishing letters show America on the verge of political, social, and gastronomic transformation.



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2010: Though this collection of letters between Julia Child and her savvy friend, cook, and confidante, Avis DeVoto, may be voluminous, its narrative force is immediate. Julia and Avis shared a voracious curiosity about ingredients, gadgets, recipes, and methods that any home cook worth her salt will find wonderful to read. Their testing and tasting in large part fueled Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the now-legendary and game-changing cookbook that Avis, upon reading an early chapter, said "could be a classic and make your fortune and go on selling forever." Avis was an instant and unwavering champion of the book and shepherded its long journey towards publication stateside, as Julia and her co-authors in France worked doggedly on the manuscript, and there couldn't have been a better or brighter for advocate for the book's target audience. As a mid-century American housewife, Avis participated both eagerly and critically in the renaissance age of culinary convenience: she details her experiments with the frozen, freeze-dried, canned, and casseroled with a wonderful sense of humor and taste. These pieces are particularly fascinating to read now, as we resurrect the slow, local approach to home cooking, and her perspective on what was available to American cooks at that time is a seamless counterpart to her commentary on the cookbook itself, which she praises time and again for its classical richness and modern practicality. Julia writes to Avis early on that "people who love to eat are always the best people," and certainly nothing could be truer of these two formidable and gracious gourmandes. --Anne Bartholomew

Product Description

With her outsize personality, Julia Child is known around the world by her first name alone. But despite that familiarity, how much do we really know of the inner Julia?

Now more than 200 letters exchanged between Julia and Avis DeVoto, her friend and unofficial literary agent memorably introduced in the hit movie Julie & Julia, open the window on Julia’s deepest thoughts and feelings. This riveting correspondence, in print for the first time, chronicles the blossoming of a unique and lifelong friendship between the two women and the turbulent process of Julia’s creation of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, one of the most influential cookbooks ever written. Frank, bawdy, funny, exuberant, and occasionally agonized, these letters show Julia, first as a new bride in Paris, then becoming increasingly worldly and adventuresome as she follows her diplomat husband in his postings to Nice, Germany, and Norway.

With commentary by the noted food historian Joan Reardon, and covering topics as diverse as the lack of good wine in the United States, McCarthyism, and sexual mores, these astonishing letters show America on the verge of political, social, and gastronomic transformation.

More to Explore
(Click on Images to Enlarge)

The Young Julia Child: Occasionally insecure, always opinionated, never dull

The Young Julia Child: Occasionally insecure, always opinionated, never dull

Julia’s  letter to Avis after Houghton Mifflin rejected her cookbook

Julia’s letter to Avis after Houghton Mifflin rejected her cookbook

An enterprising cook, Avis had a nose for a great book

An enterprising cook, Avis had a nose for a great book

Joan Reardon

Culinary historian, cookbook author, and biographer Joan Reardon

From Publishers Weekly

Culinary historian Reardon's collection of the correspondence between Child and her pen pal, Avis DeVoto (portrayed in the film Julie & Julia by Deborah Rush), bubbles over with intimate insights into their friendship. In 1952, Child was living in Paris when she wrote to Cambridge, Mass., historian Bernard DeVoto after reading his Harper's article about knives. Her letter was answered by his wife, Avis, who soon became her confidante, sounding board, and enthusiastic fellow cook. The two met finally met in person two years later. As a part of the publishing community, Avis (who died in 1989) was responsible for securing the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, steering the book first to Houghton Mifflin and then to its eventual home at Knopf. Their letters span a wide range of topics, from cookbooks, menus, recipes, and restaurants to Balzac, sex, goose stuffing, gardening, learning languages, the political climate, Sunday afternoon cocktail parties, and proofreading. Witty, enlightening and entertaining, these letters serve as a compelling companion volume to Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (Dec. 1)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 5947 KB
  • Print Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Reprint edition (December 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004BXA3BI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,898 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
138 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A foodie friendship, one letter at a time November 15, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's easy to recommend this book to dedicated foodies, and certainly to fans of Julia Child. "As Always, Julia" is the collection of the correspondence between Julia Child and her friend, mentor, and editor Avis DeVoto, from the time in 1952 when Julia wrote a fan letter to Avis' husband (regarding an article he'd written about kitchen knives) and mentioned in-passing that she was working on a cookbook, until the time several years later that the cookbook finally was published.

If you're interested in Julia Child the person (and My Life in France wasn't enough for you, whether or not accompanied by the Julie & Julia movie), then "As Always, Julia" is a no-brainer, because these were the letters shared by two intelligent and opinionated women who were confiding in one another, not talking to a microphone. And confide they did: about Avis' child-raising and Paul Child's job as well as the difficulty of finding fresh shallots. It is, more than anything else, the story of a real life friendship, and better than any epistolary novel you can imagine. You will know these women well, at their most personal, such as Avis writing, "I like every part about growing older except what happens to your feet." (It's hard to imagine anyone compiling such a collection now, with all of us writing e-mail -- if that -- and only packrats like myself keeping copies of everything for decades.)

But the book is interesting for several other reasons.

Watching the creation of a masterpiece: Mastering the Art of French Cooking was an instant classic, and it was the result of years of hard work.
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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two extraordinary women, one inspiring friendship November 8, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Picture a young wife, circa 1963, faced with entertaining her husband's European business associates and friends (one of whom was a Swiss trained chef!), but whose only cookbook was "Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook." Now, imagine her astonishment as she thumbs through her brand new book entitled, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Talk about prayers being answered! Yes, Julia was responsible for awakening my passion for cooking that continues to this day.

But much as I appreciated Julia as an excellent instructor and enjoyed her television appearances, I had no clue how intelligent, witty and warm hearted she was until I read these letters. In addition, what a pleasure it was to meet her friend, Avis DeVoto, every bit as charming and erudite as Julia. How extraordinary that these two "met" when Julia sent a couple of good French knives to Avis's husband, the writer Bernard DeVoto, after reading his article complaining about the lack of quality in American kitchen knives. That simple gift was the seed of a friendship that is beyond heartwarming to read about.

For those of us who remember the late `50's, these letters also remind us of the turmoil surrounding the McCarthy witch hunts and the latter hearings, years that can only be described today as "bizarre." But it reminds us of how easy it is for just one person to create an atmosphere of suspicion and hearsay so poisonous, that, for awhile, it can intimidate an entire country.

When I first began reading this rather large book, I thought I would keep it by my bedside and read a few letters each evening. Ha! "Bet you can't eat (read) just one!" Instead, I promptly gave in and let the rest of the world go by while I devoured every word until the end. I can't remember the last time that happened.

History, humor, inspiring and unforgettable personalities -- what more can you want in a book?
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51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Julia, Unplugged October 28, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Who would have guessed that Julia Child was a control freak?

Judging by her own letters, it seems that she was often in various stages of irritation at her two co-authors of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the book that launched her career. One co-author didn't do her share of the work, although in her defense, it's unlikely that any of them realized when they began, that they were embarking on what would be a 20-year-long project that was anything but smooth. Her other colleague was a hard worker, but something of a perfectionist, often second-guessing Julia's meticulous research. It's amazing the book was published at all.

Julia became pen pals with Avis DeVoto, a reviewer of mysteries and wife of Bernard DeVoto, a writer and editor. Julia had written to Bernard about an article he had written and he asked Avis to answer the letter. Julia and Avis hit it off immediately and began a correspondence and friendship that lasted the rest of their lives.

Julia was an expert at French cooking, but she knew little about book publishing and oddly, little about American cooking. She had never cooked when she lived in America, and had learned everything she knew about cooking in Paris, so she had peculiar gaps in her knowledge, such as that Americans keep their fresh eggs in cartons in the refrigerator, not in a bowl on the counter. Avis was able to keep such clangers from getting into the book, as well as steering Julia to editors who would be open to the idea of such an ambitious cookbook.

Avis also acted as Julia's stateside researcher, answering questions such as whether cake flour was available, or just all-purpose flour.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Revelation and a Marvel!
A Revelation and a Marvel! Interesting revelation of her life and times. Julia Child is one of my Heroes.
Published 14 days ago by Bruce D. Burleigh
2.0 out of 5 stars Sorry but this book is very boring unless you adore Julia Child
Sorry but this book is very boring unless you adore Julia Child. I don't know what I expected but once into the book, I didn't find it very interesting.
Published 1 month ago by Jo's Mama
4.0 out of 5 stars A FUN read
This book was fun. I loved watching the friendship between Child and DeVoto develop into something very deep and dear. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Carol Ann Cunningham
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Lovely - love the leters.
Published 2 months ago by Paula Johansen
4.0 out of 5 stars This was such a fun read about two friends
This was such a fun read about two friends. Fun to hear what they were cooking and drinking. Julia must have been a fun person to know and work with although guess things usually... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Patsy R. Crayton
4.0 out of 5 stars Food, Friendship, Travel...This book has it all!
It started out with a letter about a knife, of all things. Julia and Paul Child had been in Paris about three and a half years when Julia read an article published in a 1951 issue... Read more
Published 2 months ago by The Book Addict
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read for the right reader
I am a foodie and a lover of history. If you like to read about history from sources other than history books, you will find much to enjoy in these letters. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice historical friendship book
Though I doubt if I read it again, this was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I found the letters and recipes fascinating. Read more
Published 3 months ago by elib
4.0 out of 5 stars Food and history
These letters reveal much about the thinking of both these women as well as providing a window into foodways in the 50's in both the US and in France. Read more
Published 3 months ago by FBC
4.0 out of 5 stars review of Julia Child book
This is a wonderful book about the relationship between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, told through their letters. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Pym fan
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