Review – Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child
From interminably hungry young girl and “terror at the stove” to a “master” in the art of French cooking (but still interminably hungry!), “Dearie” chronicles the aptly titled “Remarkable Life of Julia Child” from high spirited child, to aimless social butterfly, and into the icon she has become. Bob Spitz provides an exhaustive look into the life of Julia Child, detailing her personal struggles and successes with family, work, love and ultimately finding her purpose.
Dearie begins with an account of Julia’s first television appearance on WGBH’s People Are Reading, an intensely dry educational program, providing the perfect juxtaposition for Julia’s eccentric cooking antics to really stand out (not that she needed the help!). The prologue helps draw the reader in for what promises to be a book filled with plenty of Julia’s charm and hilarious anecdotes. This initial episode may provide necessary for some, as the coming chapters detailing Julia’s McWilliams family history and her “pre-french chef” days can become a tedious (but still enjoyable) read, knowing the story will get back there.
While dry for some, the first quarter of Dearie provides a necessary look into Julia’s family history and her life growing up in a well-to-do family. With money being a non-issue, Julia didn’t have the pull to post-grad employment, like many of her peers did, allowing her to live rather aimlessly in her years as a young-adult. Though seemingly aimless, Julia resisted the typical role of settling down with a husband and kids, a non-conformist attitude that is presented throughout the book, hinting to her yearning for a greater calling. She begins to find purpose and her thirst for adventure during her “growing-up period” working in the OSS (Office of Strategic Services). Her employment with the OSS also taught her the importance of thoroughness and attention to detail, which takes a noticeable effect in her approach to creating the encyclopedic “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.
Her employment with the OSS also led to finding the love of her life, Paul Child; a relationship that quite possibly became the reason Julia was able to find her true calling. Upon their move to France, Julia became enamoured by the French and their cuisine, eventually enrolling at Le Cordon Bleu, where she would begin her journey into the world of food. From this point, Bob Spitz does an amazing job taking the reader on a journey alongside Julia, as she dedicates herself to French cooking, and her magnum opus: Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
When Simone Beck approached Julia, who was “mad about French food”, with the intention of resurrecting her failed French cookbook for Americans, neither party had a clue the “elephant” they would create. Looking at a book like Mastering the Art of French Cooking, it’s obvious there was a great deal of work put into it, what may not be obvious, is actually HOW MUCH effort was put into the book. Over the next several chapters, Dearie reveals the intense research, rigorous recipe testing and editing of a book which took nearly ten years to create and publish. Through these chapters, we really discover the kind of person Julia was. While most people in their 40’s are looking forward to retirement, Julia was just starting her engine! Through rejections, constantly relocating around the world and frustrating working partnerships, she is portrayed as an individual who is unwaveringly positive, determined to make the best of any situation. This aspect of Julia is what I found truly inspiring, being able to stay positive and motivated in any situation is a lesson many of us could benefit from learning/being reminded of.
Dearie really starts to pick up in its later chapters as we read of Julia’s rise to her iconic status in the culinary and entertainment world. She was the perfect person to inspire and teach a new generation of eager home cooks. Heck, she even left her name and number in the phonebook, answering calls from fans who were in need of guidance as they prepared her recipes! Now that’s humble! This humility allowed her to bond with several different personality types (just think of how many fans refer to her as “Julia”, as if she’s an old friend – I know I can’t help it!). Not only did this quality help Julia build a loyal fan base, it allowed her to bring Chefs together, building a strong community, especially with the rising stars of the culinary world. Not only did she change the North American culinary scene with her cookbooks and shows, she had a far reaching influence by guiding new chefs and connecting individuals.
Dearie covers all these sides of Julia and more, condensing this biography into a summary/review is challenging enough, I can only imagine the difficulty of fitting Julia Child’s life into one book, even with 500+ pages. This biography is a must read for anybody who is passionate about food, loves watching the Food Network or just wants to learn more about Julia Child. For those unfamiliar with all of Julia Child’s work, Dearie will be an eye opening experience (as it was for me).
**** GIVEAWAY ****
Comment below to enter!
We are giving away one copy of Dearie to a lucky Canadian reader! Sorry to those living elsewhere, we decided to keep it within Canada due to shipping costs and because the JC100 giveaways were only open to those in the U.S. (Us canucks need a chance for free stuff too!).