Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Julie and Julia . . . and Judith!

The film is fabulous!

If you haven't yet gone to see Julie and Julia, you are in for a wonderful treat. But be prepared. You will come out of the theatre with an irresistible urge to buy a baguette and lots and lots of butter (which is perfectly fine - both Julia and her husband Paul lived into their nineties) and go home and saute some mushrooms (being very careful not to crowd them). I'm thrilled that Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking has hit the bestseller list again but you will also definitely want to get your hands on a copy of her memoir My Life in France.

I tore up my apartment last weekend desperately searching for my unread copy only to realize I'd left it at the office. But my shelves did yield up The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones, who was Julia's long-time editor and is also portrayed in the film. And this memoir more than satisified my need to wallow just a bit longer in Paris and submerse myself in the seductive and sensual world of food.

Just like Julia, Judith also lived for a number of years in Paris following the end of the Second World War and fell in love with the city, French food and her future husband. We then follow her career back in the U.S. where she became an editor at Knopf and - as illustrated in the movie - championed what became Mastering the Art of French Cooking after the massive manuscript had been turned down by several publishers. The movie ends with the book being published but Judith continues the story, following Julia as she promotes the book on the road and detailing the huge impact the success of the cookbook had on Julia and Paul's life. There's a fascinating section about creating and writing the bread chapter in the second volume of Mastering, all in the pursuit of coming up with a recipe for the perfect French baguette (it ends up being eleven pages long and I'm not going to give away the secret here). Judith also worked with many other incredible chefs and cookbook writers such as Claudia Roden, Edna Lewis, Marion Cunningham and Madhur Jaffrey, just to name a few. Her memoir is not only filled with great stories but certainly demonstrates how incredibly labour intensive it is to edit a cookbook. Luckily Judith is passionate and fearless when it comes to food. For me a beavertail is a delicious deepfried pastry sprinkled with sugar and lemon that is sold along the frozen banks of Ottawa's Rideau Canal; for Judith, it's something a little more literal. Julia couldn't have been in better editorial hands.

The last section of The Tenth Muse is filled with some of Judith's favourite recipes - many of them French (including a shorter one for a baguette, but still based on Julia's recipe). Some look quite complicated but there are many that even I will attempt, such as "Freeform Apple Tarts" and "Sorrel and Leek Pancakes". I also love the section that offers nine ways to use up roast lamb leftovers (my favourite meat). She will also have a new book out this September that already has me salivating - The Pleasures of Cooking for One.

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