Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends

Julia Child Book Reviews


Appetite for Life:
The Biography of Julia Child

By Noel Riley Fitch

“Julia Child Invented Modern Life,” declared U.S.News & World Report in a cover story September 1997, “she made America mad for food and changed notions of class and gender.” Her image is familiar in every household, her voice imitated on television (“Saturday Night Live”) and radio (“Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion”). “Everyone with a TV set knows Julia!” declared one journalist. Time magazine, when it placed her on a 1966 cover, called her “Our Lady of the ladle.”

She is America’s chief home cook and our favorite cooking teacher--a role model who has brought generations into the kitchen. Her career started with the first definitive (and still classic) cookbook illustrating the fundamentals of French cooking techniques: Mastering the Art of French Cooking I and II (1961, 1970). The New York Times reviewer, Craig Claiborne, called it “a masterpiece.” Her long publishing career was capped by The Way to Cook (1989), a masterpiece of techniques and recipes, and the first cookbook to be chosen as a main selection by the Book of the Month Club.

With her Mastering, Julia Child revolutionized the cookbook industry in the US: henceforth recipes had to be honest and precise, detailed and scientific. Indeed, she is a master pedagogue, without being pedantic.

In addition to her own books, she has contributed series of articles to the Boston Globe, Parade, Food and Wine, and McCalls. For a time food editor of Parade magazine, she has collaborated on and written the introductions to several volumes based on various television cooking series with other renowned chefs.

The pioneer of the now thriving field of television cooking, Mrs. Child began “The French Chef” series on WGBH (Boston) in 1963 and has continued television teaching to a national audience. “Julia Child and Company,” “Julia Child and More Company,” and “Dinner with Julia” followed. Her signature sign-off, “bon appétit,” has become a part of every American’s vocabulary.

Ever generous and sharing, she embarked on a second television career by presenting four new series: “Cooking With Master Chefs” (1993), “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs” (1995), “Baking with Julia” (1996), and--her final series, airing in 1999-2000-- “Julia Child and Jacques Pepin Cooking at Home.” In addition to her PBS programs, she has appeared regularly on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

She calls herself primarily a teacher, and, indeed, she has taught generations how to cook. Her “graduates” are innumerable, thanks to the reach of television. Her appeal crosses class and gender lines. When a thousand fans line up for her signature, she graciously signs every book.

Pundits have credited her success to her charm, klutziness, enthusiasm, comic sense of theater, and timing. Significantly and uniquely, she combines classical training with a folksy manner, democratizing French food and
teaching the nation to relax about cooking and diets. She is reassuring as well as entertaining, and extols appetite and pleasure.

Born (15 August 1912) and reared in Pasadena, California, Child embodies the openness and democracy of the West. Educated at Smith College (class of ‘34) and the Cordon Bleu in Paris (1950), she is the chief advocate of education in gastronomy and the establishment of standards for the culinary profession. She helped found the International Association of Culinary Professionals (which named their book prize after her) and the American Institute of Wine and Food.

Remarkably, Mrs. Child did not debut on television for the first time until she was past 50, and her first book was published when she was 49. She had served a long apprenticeship teaching and testing recipes in Europe and the US. Today, though she claims never to have stopped learning, she has become an icon. Her square, freckled face and commanding height, her warbly vibrato and natural dignity, are instantly recognized on every street in America.

The full story of her live and her role in the culinary history of America is told for the first time in Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child, published in hardback by Doubleday and now available in Anchor paperback. A love story of Paul Child and Julia McWilliams, this biography tells the story of her work with America’s first international spy organization in World War II (OSS: Office of Strategic Services) in India and China and her life in Washington DC, Paris, Marseilles, Bonn, and Oslo--where her husband, Paul worked for the US State Department.

Noel Riley Fitch’s biography is based on hundreds of interviews with Mrs. Child, her family, friends, and colleagues and on the vast private 50-year diary of Paul Child. It is written with the full cooperation of Mrs. Child and uses recently released State Department, FBI, and CIA records of the war-time service of Julia McWilliams and Paul Child. The biography details Julia’s childhood and search for a career, her discovery of French cuisine, the exacting and tedious testing of recipes for her first book, her rise to fame, and her role in American culinary life.

Important for culinary professionals and historians is the inclusion of a full bibliography in Appetite for Life: four pages of family genealogy, a complete listing of Julia Child’s publications and television programs, a catalog of her television series that includes number and dates of each series, several of Mrs. Child’s private and family recipes, and a listing of her many French and American awards. Among the former is the Ordre de Mérite National, among the latter are Peabody and Emmy awards. She was the first female member of the American Chapter of the chef’s society La Commanderie des Cordons Bleus de France.

Appetite for Life tells the full story of her marriage and partnership with Paul Child, what went on behind the scenes on television, the origins of her unusual voice and energy, her sometimes surprising political beliefs, her
relationship with other personalities in the food world, and the reasons why she has scrupulously avoided commercial endorsements.

Book now available in hard and soft cover.


Baking with Julia
Based on the PBS Series hosted by Julia Child
by Dorie Greenspan

This third in the series of books echoing the Master Chefs TV Series is a wonderful primer for the new baker or for the veteran who would like to sharpen techniques or try different recipes. One chooses from simple to complex recipes in breads, breakfast treats and other homey delectables from the outstanding bakers featured on this fascinating show. The written directions are good, and the color photos of some of the recipes are mouth-watering, but it is the many sepia toned photos of bread preparation techniques that add a serenely lovely touch that makes this book as comforting as the host of the series, the inimitable Julia Child.


Cooking with Master Chefs
by Julia Child

This book is a companion volume to the great chef's PBS series "Cooking with Master Chefs." Ms. Child brings forth sixteen of America's foremost chefs and interprets their recipes and techniques for the rest of us. We get to see firsthand what makes these chefs special. Alice Waters, Andre Soltner and Emeril Lagasse lead the who's who of American cooking.


In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs
by Julia Child

More great American chefs from the greatest one of them all. In this volume, Ms. Child highlights the cuisine of twenty-six top US chefs and breaks it down to a language we can easily understand. Jody Adams, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Roberto Donna are among the members of the "faculty." The teacher gets to work and the results are a lesson worth learning. Wonderful photos and anecdotes throughout.


Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1
by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck

The master herself and a couple of very capable colleagues give us the definitive primer on French cooking. It's a book for beginners and seasoned veterans alike who want to recreate simple as well as classic dishes at home. Everything from purchasing the best raw ingredients to basic French techniques and the best wines to accompany your feast is covered. Your kitchen shouldn't be without this one.


Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 2
by Julia Child and Simone Beck

If you really want to master French cooking, it behooves you to continue to learn and grow. This book will send you on your way, with a repertoire of recipes to take you to that next level. You can recreate the pleasures of France in an American kitchen and save yourself the air fare to Paris. The French bread recipe in this book is flawless. You'll learn how to poach a chicken thirteen ways and your royal Napoleons will be the hit of the neighborhood.


The Way to Cook
by Julia Child

Ms. Child takes a lifetime of experience in the kitchen and makes it something accessible and sensible for the rest of us. In this book, which has an added emphasis on lighter, fresher and simpler preparations, you will be reminded of the basics, how to work with the best ingredients and, above all, to enjoy yourself. The color photos are a delight. Viva Julia!

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

Share this article with a friend:

Free eNewsletter SignUp

Sally's Place on Facebook    Sally Bernstein on Instagram    Sally Bernstein at Linked In

Global Resources

Handmade Chocolates, Lillie Belle Farms

Food411 Food Directory