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As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto Hardcover – Deckle Edge, December 1, 2010
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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?
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What I found most interesting was not the recipe arguments or the book development but the politics of the eraPublished 3 months ago by Ann Plutzer & Arthur Plutzer
Its ok, not what I had expected it to be, but that is to be expected. No I would not ask others to read this, its some type of a book u can easy lay down and not read again. Read morePublished 4 months ago by vark
Highly Highly Recommend this book. I felt as if I was reading letters from an old friend. I still pick up the book and open it to a random page just for the fun of it. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Dot Reader
History buffs will revel in the letters Julia and her friend Avis send one another. Julia reveals what her diplomat husband is experiencing on his various postings to different... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Liberty Spinner