Oh my goodness! Not too long ago I fell into a madness of watching Julie & Julia pretty much like once a day. For real. It got bad. Anyway, I came to love the idea of Julia Child and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I wanted to know more about her and her masterpiece. Turns out that a few months ago on what would have been Julia’s 100th birthday, Amazon had a deal on As Always, Julia by Joan Reardon and I picked it up on a whim. When I was creating my first List of Ten (er, my first List of Ten that I am sticking to) I knew that this was one of the books that I wanted to be able to scratch off my list. It was so worth it and I am so happy to be able to complete it. 🙂
Avis DeVoto and Julia Child started their friendship on the point of a knife. A French cooking knife to be exact. Julia and Pual Child regularly read Bernard Devoto’s (Avis’s husband) articles in Harper’s. In this particular article, Bernard took the American stainless steel kitchen knife to task. They were pretty much useless and could not be sharpened. Julia felt so passionately about this that she sent DeVoto a few knives. Avis was her husband’s secretary and answered his fan mail. A gift of such generosity required a personal response. From there a friendship developed between Avis and Julia.
Joan Reardon focused on the letters in regards to the development of Julia’s cookbook. It covers their friendship from that first fateful letter to Bernard clear up until the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Telling a story through letters had to have been a difficult task and Reardon does it beautifully. Letters that covered too serious of family matters were omitted, and references, events, and initials are expanded upon in the footnotes. I know that this sounds silly but I really felt that I knew Avis and Julia after reading this book. Their personalities really shine in their letters. Their letters cover everything from personal news, the cooking manuscript, Bernard’s manuscripts, America’s political climates at that time, and the areas in which Paul and Julia Child lived.
If you want to know more about Julia Child or enjoy watching a friendship blossom between two women, I couldn’t suggest this book more. It was a great read and I’m so glad that I read it!