As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto

by Joan Reardon (Editor)
4.1 19

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As Always, Julia 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
NovelChatter More than 1 year ago
It all started with a fan letter written in March of 1953. "Housewife" and food junkie Julia Child wrote a letter to Mr. Bernard DeVoto agreeing with his "diatribe" against stainless steel knives in an article he'd written for Harper's magazine. Julia's letter was answered by Bernard's wife, Avis. Many of us learned about the friendship between Julia and Avis DeVoto in the 2009 hit film, Julie and Julia. Now we are blessed with the treat that is Joan Reardon's As Always, Julia. Joan Reardon has done a superb job in selecting, compiling, editing and referencing what was originally more than four hundred letters written by Julia and Avis. Ms. Reardon is a culinary historian, cookbook author, and biographer. She also edits a quarterly newsletter for Les Dames d'Escoffier Chicago and serves on the advisory board of Gastronomica. In other words, Ms. Reardon knows her way around a kitchen and it shows! Within the 430+ pages of this book, the letters not only chronicle the growing friendship between Julia and Avis, they also serve as steadfast barometer of the times. The letters span the years between 1953 and 1961. The world was changing rapidly and the commentary and banter that flows back and forth reflects the post-World War II "jet age" experiences. One of the things I found amazing was the pro-and-con 1953 debate spurred by new "labor saving devices," in particular, the automatic dish washer, something a 2010 household thinks nothing about. However, Avis is appalled that the glasses and dishes have to be rinsed, that pots and pans shouldn't be put in, and all things considered, they don't clean that well. Another discussion that takes place between Avis and Julia is one that would not take place today: the scarcity of fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables during the "off season." Now-a-days most everything is available year round. They shared their struggles with cooking food within the "seasons" and offered each other alternatives to fresh foods, frozen (not so good) and canned (not so good always either). This is a wonderful book of letters that shares more than the growth of a long distance friendship. As Always, Julia follows the publication of Julia's ground breaking cookbook, Mastering The Art of French Cooking. Through the eyes of these two savvy, well read, well traveled, and very opinionated women we see the politics of the time, the McCarthy era, as well as their thoughts on American "fast food," how to make a beurre blanc, and the perils of the frozen turkey. As Always, Julia is a valentine to every cook, wanna-be cook, chef, and food lover out there. It's also a valentine to a friendship that survived decades. I can't recommend this book enough. As Always, Julia is a wonderful read and it will make a fabulous gift to anyone who loves food and believes in enduring, unselfish friendships. Buy several, one to read and the rest to share with friends! If I gave stars, this is a sweet 5 out of 5 stars! Source: This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request and in no way affected by review.
takingadayoff More than 1 year ago
Who would have guessed that Julia Child was a control freak? 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. Avis alerted her to new trends in American cooking, such as the use of mono sodium glutamate (MSG) in the form of sprinkle-on Accent. They wrote about politics as well, with Senator Joseph McCarthy and his hunt for communists the topic of the day. Julia and husband Paul moved from Paris to Marseilles to Germany to Oslo during the 1950s, and she wrote Avis how they were adapting to each new home and how their attempts at language learning were going. Julia loved getting to know new places, but her heart always belonged to Paris. After two years of letter writing, Avis and Julia finally met in France, and they met a few more times over the years, until the Childs finally returned to the States for good and could see the DeVotos on a more regular basis. The letters span the years from 1952 to 1961 and are remarkably interesting despite their share of mundane matters such as the weather and who had what seasonal disease. Julia and Paul went to a play while they were visiting New York in 1957 and were impressed by the "young male lead, Richard Burton...he is English, I believe." In a prescient letter dated 1952, Julia told Avis "I'm enjoying [teaching French cooking to Americans] immensely, as I've finally found a real and satisfying profession which will keep me busy well into the year 2000."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book. It gives real insight into the personalities of Avis and Julia. Avis is much the better letter writer- more intelligent and better read. More passionate about life. Julia seems more uppercrust and slightly constipated, however, that is probably more a function of her class and the period in which she grew up. A very readable and entertaining book.
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I ordered this for our daughter as a Christmas gift from my husband and myself and she is enjoying reading it right now!
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Please, don't waste your time by reading it. Instead, if you like awesome books and not boring books then read Charlie St. Cloud. Charlie St. Cloud is a great book and it iinspires me very much and you will be inspired to the book too. I would llike to make this 0 but it won't let me