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
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.
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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)
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