As Always, Julia--Letters of J. Child & Avis DeVoto

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As Always, Julia--Letters of J. Child & Avis DeVoto

Post by DotNotInOz on Sun Nov 28, 2010 9:46 am

First to admit that I usually find collections of people's correspondence boooorrrrinnng.

This one is a notable exception. It begins in the early 1950's with Child in Paris just getting into her cooking school for American housewives along with Bertholle and Beck. Child wrote a letter to Bernard DeVoto praising his article on how horrible American stainless steel knives are (still are unless you pay out the wazoo!) and sending him a small French carbon steel one.

B. DeVoto was swamped at the time, so his wife Avis who usually handled his correspondence wrote back, thus beginning a friendship that would last until Avis's death in 1989. Avis DeVoto helped the Childs acquire their ultimately famous Boston home that would eventually house the Julia Child kitchen now reconstructed in the Smithsonian.

The book is fascinating in its small details such as the fact that good steak sold for 49 CENTS a pound, and a mortgage on an East Coast home of some size was as little as $50/mo. However, it also compares what foodstuffs were fresh and good in the U.S. while bemoaning the rise of so many packaged "just-add" ones. Shallots were available rarely and usually only on order. Now, I can go barely 3 miles to either of two sizable supermarkets and find them any time of year along with butter from Denmark, Ireland and France, cheeses from all over the world.

A delightful look back at a simpler time, knowing that Julia Child was on the verge of becoming a driving force to persuade Americans that they could eat far better by cooking as the French do. What changes we've seen since!

If you're a foodie or lover of cookbooks, either one, do get this book. It is fascinating!

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