Book Recommendation: Julia Child’s “My Life in France”
I have been somewhat fascinated by Julia Child for the last couple of years. It has little to do with her cooking and everything to do with the amazing story behind her career. I was inspired to pick up a copy of Julia Child’s My Life in France after reading that she had no idea how to cook when she and her husband, Paul, first stepped foot in France. This blew my mind because, as we all know, she made a footprint in culinary history with her cookbooks and television shows. I had to know what in the world Julia did to ingrain herself so deeply in the culinary world with a bit of a late start. She was born in 1912, received a B.A. in History in 1934 and did not enroll into Le Cordon Bleu until the late 1940’s. The Julia Child we all know was the product of a career reinvention.
So how did she do it? The answer is two-fold and quite simple. Julia found what she loved and she threw everything she had into it. She has an awful lot to teach each of us about what happens when we follow our passions. These are the pieces of her story that moved me and the lessons that I learned from them:
She took immediate action when she discovered what she truly wanted to do. Julia’s gut feeling that she had fallen in love with French cooking was cemented after whipping through the recipes of Larousse Gastronomique. She took her adoration of French cooking as a queue that she was onto something great and followed her instincts. Soon she found herself enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu Bleu (the infamous Parisian cooking school).
She refused to give up, even in the face of complete ambivalence and strong resistance from those who did not want her to succeed. She had aspirations that in her mind absolutely required a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu. After paying her dues and completing all of the classes that were required of her, she still had to push very hard to gain access to the exam. Even more frustrating, she wound up having to take the final exam more than once.
She was tenacious and missed many beautiful Parisian days to make her dreams of writing a cookbook come true. She knew that she was on the right path and she stayed focused. In France, Julia would write for hours upon hours, day through night, determined to write nothing short of meticulous recipes for her team’s cookbook. Along the way she encountered rejection, but always dodged any sense of self-defeat.
She did not let a fear of the unknown get in her way. Julia was on television before she even owned one. This fearlessness paid off when America fell in love with her television presence.
She married a man that made her feel like she could do anything. It is much easier to pursue your life’s passion when you have a strong support system behind you. On her side was a wildly supportive and motivating husband who also led her to believe that she could pull anything off…and she did.
She never seemed to be bogged down by what “was” or the time she’d already invested in something. If she felt that it was time to move on, she did just that. When she sold her home in France, Julia hardly grieved. Not one for sentiment, she was able to move on from it as though closing a chapter, smiling at how great it was, and jumping right into the next.
My Life in France has stayed with me ever since I turned the first page. Julia had a fearlessness and tenacity that not only made her one of the world’s most famous chefs, but also a television darling and a fabulous writer. All because she threw every ounce of her being into what she loved and did everything she could to make her dreams happen. Which, by cause and effect, only prompted even more fabulous things to transpire. This led to a life so loud and inspiring that people like me stay up until 2 A.M. pouring through the pages of her life story to find out how on earth she pulled all of this off.
She became the Julia that we all know by following her dreams and gut instincts, barreling through rejection and rarely doubting herself. Her constant forward-thinking and fearlessness moved me. I loved that she never let anything that transpired in her past hold her back. Every day was a fresh start and she was not obliged to do anything unless she felt that she was meant to do it. These are the qualities that make Julia truly inspiring.
Julia’s nephew Alex Prud’homme, Paul Child’s grandnephew, compiled her story and was still wrapping it up after she passed away at 92. I feel as though anyone that reads this book is so lucky that he took the time to capture her story. Had Alex not shared Julia’s life in France with the world, we would be missing out on one of the most inspiring stories of our time. The story of a woman who fell so in love with her passion for cooking that she become one of the most well-known chef’s of our time. A woman who inspires all of us to plunge deep into whatever it is that we love the most. That’s when real life happens and we become an even larger version of ourselves, perhaps the best version of ourselves – the way Julia did.