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Now, in Bob Spitz's definitive, wonderfully affectionate biography, the Julia we know and love comes vividly -- and surprisingly -- to life. In "Dearie," Spitz employs the same skill he brought to his best-selling, critically acclaimed book "The Beatles," ""providing a clear-eyed portrait of one of the most fascinating and influential Americans of our time -- a woman known to all, yet known by only a few.
At its heart, "Dearie" is a story about a woman's search for her own unique expression. Julia Child was a directionless, gawky young woman who ran off halfway around the world to join a spy agency during World War II. She eventually settled in Paris, where she learned to cook and collaborated on the writing of what would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking, " a book that changed the food culture of America. She was already fifty when "The French Chef" went on the air -- at a time in our history when women weren't making those leaps. Julia became the first educational TV star, virtually launching PBS as we know it today; her marriage to Paul Child formed a decades-long love story that was romantic, touching, and quite extraordinary.
A fearless, ambitious, supremely confident woman, Julia took on all the pretensions that embellished tony French cuisine and fricasseed them to a fare-thee-well, paving the way for everything that has happened since in American cooking, from TV dinners and Big Macs to sea urchin foam and the Food Channel. Julia Child's story, however, is more than the tale of a talented woman and her sumptuous craft. It is also a saga of America's coming of age and growing sophistication, from the Depression Era to the turbulent sixties and the excesses of the eighties to the greening of the American kitchen. Julia had an effect on and was equally affected by the baby boom, the sexual revolution, and the start of the women's liberation movement.
On the centenary of her birth, Julia finally gets the biography she richly deserves. An in-depth, intimate narrative, full of fresh information and insights, "Dearie" is an entertaining, all-out adventure story of one of our most fascinating and beloved figures.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-07-09
- Reviewer: Staff
On November 3, 1948, a lunch in a Paris restaurant of sole meunière, the sole so very fresh with its delicate texture and cooked like an omelet in nothing but a bath of clarified butter, changed Julia Child’s life. In that moment, Child (1912–2004) recognized and embraced food as her calling, setting out initially to learn the finer points of cooking, and French cooking in particular. In this affectionate and entertaining tribute to the witty, down-to-earth, bumptious, and passionate host of The French Chef, Spitz (The Beatles) exhaustively chronicles Child’s life and career from her childhood in California through her social butterfly flitting at Smith and her work for a Pasadena department store to her stint in government service, her marriage to Paul Child, and her rise to become America’s food darling with the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her many television shows. In spite of her miserable failures in her early attempts to prepare food for her husband, a determined Child enrolled in courses at the renowned French cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, where she mastered everything from sauces to soufflés. Spitz reminds us that Child had always possessed a tremendous amount of excess energy with no outlet for expressing it. With the publication of her cookbook and the subsequent television shows, she discovered the place where she could use her cooking skills, her force of personality, and her abundant charm. Released to coincide with Child’s centenary, Spitz’s delightful biography succeeds in being as big as its subject. Agent: Sloan Harris, ICM. (Aug.)
A taste for the good life
In his acclaimed biography, The Beatles, Bob Spitz delivered an intimate and enduring portrait of four rock stars who changed the course of popular culture. Now, timed to coincide with Julia Child’s 100th birthday, Spitz offers an admiring portrait of the woman who became a rock star in her own world, changing forever the way Americans think about food and cooking.
Drawing deeply on Child’s diaries and letters, Dearie exhaustively—and exhaustingly—chronicles her life from her rambunctious childhood and her socially active days at Smith to her early adult life in government service, her whirlwind romance with Paul Child, and her rapid rise to becoming the television star without whom the Food Network and the passion for celebrity chefs might never have developed.
As Spitz points out, Julia Child wasn’t a natural when it came to the kitchen. In November 1948, an extraordinary meal in Paris changed her life, and she enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu, gaining the skills she needed to prepare everything from sauces to soups to soufflés. In 1961, she published Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and though critics called it a monumental work, it was not until Child promoted the book on the “Today” show that it began flying out of bookstores and ended up on kitchen counters around the country. In 1962, Child’s energetic personality and her love of teaching landed her before the camera for her groundbreaking public television show, “The French Chef,” where she cultivated an audience with her down-to-earth ways, her off-color humor, her lack of concern for perfection and her devotion to making sure that everyone—even the unskilled—could cook the dishes she prepared.
As Spitz so cannily observes, Child was determined to stand at the center of her own world. The story of her emancipation runs parallel to the struggles of post-war American women who were frustrated that the demands of being a perfect hostess and a perfect wife kept them from pursuing other dreams and desires. In Julia Child, these women had not only a role model who steered them from beans-and-franks casseroles to Sole Meunière but also a fiercely independent woman who lived above the rules of both the kitchen and culture.