As Always, Julia

What if Julia Child had tweeted or emailed?  Then Joan Reardon would not have had the rich resources to compile Julia Childs’ letters into an epistolary in As Always, Julia.

Their correspondence starts with a knife: Julia writes a letter to Avis DeVoto’s husband, a journalist who has written an essay on knives; Avis responds and starts an enduring friendship.  Both women are revealed as savvy cooks, brilliant conversationalists, and with the same political leanings – not a stretch, since McCarthyism was in full swing at the time.

If you’ve forgotten from the movie, Julie and Julia – or Child’s own tome, My Life in France – DeVoto was the catalyst who, with her connections in the publishing world, steered Julia into the contract with Houghton Mifflin and then Knopf to the Mastering the Art of French Cooking volumes that we know today.

To be honest, I did not read every letter.  The information is the same as in My Life in France, but without the haughty persona of the public Julia.  In her letters – sometimes really long letters – Julia is gossipy, chatty, her real self.

“Whom shall I write to, for fun, when you are away?”

I did skip over the cookery lessons, the back and forth about herbs,  frozen foods, and casseroles.  But I enjoyed the inside information that you can only get when someone reads the letters you’ve sent to a good friend – not expecting that any other eyes will see them.

Did I like it?  Actually, I liked My Life in France more; it seemed easier to read.  These letters were recently unsealed from the DeVoto estate, and Reardon keeps them in tact and in chronological order – with only a few explanatory asides.  At times, reading them felt like research.

If you have not yet read about Julia’s life from the many books out there, you will probably find As Always, Julia more interesting.  But Julia Child is an icon that endures, and Julia fans can never get enough of her.

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2 thoughts on “As Always, Julia

  1. When I moved to DC, the first museum I went to was the American History where I saw Julia Child’s kitchen. As a tall woman myself, I was impressed Julia had her counters custom made to better serve her height – and there began my fascination with her. I read Julie & Julia and liked the book, but found myself more intrigued by Julia’s section that Julie’s.

    I still want to read My Life in France and now I’ll probably add this to my To Read list… but since you liked MLIF better, that will come first. (I’ve heard MLIF is amazing!)

    If you like these types of books, you might want to try reading The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry (, which is a great memoir about a woman attending the Cordon Bleu school in Paris. I really enjoyed it!

    • By the way, I’ve visited that museum and had the same reaction – also remember that famous peg wall with the pot diagrams.

      Thanks for the tip – I’ll add it to my list. Ruth Reichl’s Not Becoming My Mother has a great flavor you might like too.

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