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Bon Appe´tit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child

In this post we take a closer look at Bon Appe´tit! is a picture book about the life and times of Julia Child, a renowned chef, author and tv presenter.

Who was Julia Child?

She influenced an entire generation of housewives and culinary experts with her work. Strangely, Julia was quite uninterested in cooking and food till she met Paul Cushing Child, a connoisseur of food. Prior to that, she worked as a file clerk and an assistant to developers of shark repellant. Nothing in her education or work showed any sign that Julia Child would revolutionise the culinary world. A French meal in Rouen, France started it all for her. So impressed was she by the finesse of the meal and the freshness of the ingredients that she enrolled in the Le Cordon Bleau cooking school to learn about French cooking.

She also trained under other chefs and was part of the women’s cooking club Le Cercle des Gourmettes. It was here she met Simone Beck and  Louisette Bertholle who were working on a French book for Americans. Child joined them, using her secretarial skills to make the book practical and detailed. The recipes in the book were rigorously tested over several years before finding their place in the book ‘Mastering The Art of French Cooking’. The book was a hit and Julia went on to have a very successful career in writing about food and presenting recipes in her shows Julia Child & Company, Julia Child & More Company and Dinner at Julia’s. Her unaffected manner and structured way of explaining made her a darling of the viewers.

Julia is famous not just for bringing a French revolution into American kitchens but also for being true to herself, self-effacing and accessible. She broke down the ‘top secrets’ of French cooking to very doable steps that anyone could follow for tasty results. She was not above picking up ingredients off the cooking slab…for who’s to know if no one is there…made her immediately relatable.

Julia was tall, standing at 6.1 ft and she was quite conscious about it. She stood out in her room due to her height. She dressed like a regular citizen and not a celebrity. Her slow deliberate manner of speaking often made viewers think she had too much wine. Julia knew her food through and through and despite her supposed oddness, she won the American and French alike.

About The Book

Bon Appe´tit is Jessie Hartland’s introduces Julia Child to a whole new generation of young readers. Hartland takes us through Julia’s life, her travels and experiences.

The book also showcases Julia’s collaboration with Simone Beck on the book that would make them famous in America. Julia’s Galantine recipe has been explained through 32 panels. (Click here to see chef Jacque Pepin cook chicken Galantine)

Julia’s attention to detail, search for the truest and freshest ingredients, her collaborative nature and her steadfastness once she committed to projects is portrayed in the book. Hartland does a great job of capturing the essence of Julia Child and the lessons she taught us without saying them out aloud. Some of them are:

You are never too old to start anything. Be ever ready and open to new experiences. Throw yourself fully into your learning. Equip yourself with skills from the very best in your chosen field. Stay authentic. Pay attention to details and techniques – they make life simpler and tastier! Never talk down to your audience. Share your experiences in a way that is understood by all to empower and enrich. All skills are useful and will help you even if they seem unrelated. Be a non-conformist.

In her interview with moomah.com Hartland says she used her graphic novel format to tell an important story. The one thing Hartland hoped young readers would learn from the book was the importance of persistent hard work.

I wanted to show kids how hard she worked and that it took 10 years of trial and error to get “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, the first cookbook, published.

You know what they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I love being able to skim down the words with the detail in the illustrations; for example, I love seeing the expressions on character’s faces.

Hartland recounts that the book almost did not get made. However, Julie Powell’s blog and Nora Ephron’s movie ‘Julie And Julia’ got publishers interested in her picture book. (Thank God for that! Art fuels art.)

Bon Appe´tit is a work of art, researched assiduously and crafted with both care and detail. Speaking about the research she did for the book she said:

Oh, I read everything I could get my hands on and watched every TV episode out there, some numerous times. I visited her kitchen at the Smithsonian, got a glimpse of the outside of her house in Georgetown, D.C, and then toured France, from top to bottom. North to Brittany and Normandy, a mad dash about Paris, and then to the South, where Julia and Paul had a house near the town of Grasse.

Some French culinary hi-points include: a nougat factory in Montelimar (a nougat-crazy town with dozens of small factories) a chevre farm in Normandy, the Moet+ Chandon Champagne tour in Epernay, the watercress soup in Veules-les-Roses, and the famous farmer’s market in Nice (where Julia shopped!). I also visited the many art hot-spots near Nice: Fondation Maeght, the Matisse Chapel, Musee Picasso in Antibes and the Cocteau Chapel.

Two remarkable women, both passionate about their craft – one presented, the other the presenter – to relish and marvel in Bon Appe´tit.

You can buy this book here.

Image credits: http://jessiehartland.com/bon-apptit

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