Friday, September 7, 2012

Biblio Babble: Our Lady Of The Ladle Rides Again. Sorta.

The Book: Dearie

The Writer: Bob Spitz

The Dealio: Julia McWilliams Child's 'remarkable life', told from the viewpoint of a writer who admits he always had a crush on her. Julia- an indifferent student, a self-described 'social butterfly', one-time clerk (registry manager, if you please) for the OSS, and, finally, arguably the most original and authoritative culinary voice in America, was a mass of contradictions. But she was never boring. Perfectionistic, bossy (a true Leo), Julia started as a non-cook and evolved into an authentic antidote for the TV dinner, the can-opener cookery movement and the emphasis on staying out of the kitchen as much as possible. Along the way, she codified French cooking in a way that anyone-ANYone-could understand. But, if you  think of Julia only as embodied  by Dan Ackroyd's woobly-tippy-toed voiced on SNL-which, BTW, she adored, and made friends watch when they visited- you are rather missing the point. Once Julia found her niche-in teaching, writing and especially on that newfangled invention the television-she set about kicking down the obstacles and stereotypes of what people wanted to see, how people wanted to cook and how they wanted to both entertain and be entertained. Two weeks ago was Julia's 100th birthday, and what more fitting tribute than a brand new books all about the grand dame of cuisine media?

The Grading Session: 4.71 pengies out of 5. This was a behemoth of a book. Agreed, she had almost 92 years of living an extraordinarily populated life to relate...but, please, let's do some editing. I don't think we need to hear 15 times that she loved men her whole life and was constantly on the look-out for a 'real he man'. Also, I confess to becoming depressed - as Julia surely was- by the last few chapters' thumping litany of deaths of those near and dear. I get it. Truly. I do! Now stop that, right now. I did so enjoy the book, and, if you think you really knew pretty much everything about Julia (I have read about 5-6 books on the subject, including the excellent My Life In France, so thought that I did), get ready for some surprises. And, not all of them will be pleasant. Such is her remarkable life. As always, your mileage may differ.

Lessons Learned: First of all, for all her seeming natural personna on the small screen, every single detail- including where utensils, ingredients and comments were to be placed-was mapped out in advance in excruciating detail. Next- and this I learned the hard way (bitter experience, mostly)- let's hear it for  Julia's # 1 tip for successful cooking: read the recipe through all the way to the end first! Would have saved me some really...interesting results. And, having been ignorant of that  tip, I should definitely have  gotten hold of tip #2: never apologise. Lastly this: Julia despised Meryl Streep because of the actress's stance on  Alar on apples. Kind of ironic when you think about it. Kind of mean-spirited, when you think about it again.

Notable Quotable: 'Remember, if you are alone in the kitchen, no problem,' said when she dropped a roasted chicken on the floor.

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