My aunt gets me an eclectic variety of books for birthday and Christmas presents. Traditionally, an Alexander McCall Smith book works its way into the rotation, and thankfully, he writes enough to make for an annual present, but for some reason there was an off year. My aunt is a huge Julia Child fan, and so I found in my Christmas package one year the Bob Spitz biography Dearie. I knew who Child was growing up, and I’d enjoyed her boozy banter and casual ease in the kitchen (I don’t drink, so boozy banter is out for me, though I have worked for YEARS to feel easy in the kitchen). And, of course, I adored the Meryl Streep-led adaptation of Julie and Julia (the less said of Julie the better, right? Right). Therefore, I had few expectations of any biography but enjoyed my time with Julia immensely.
Julia Child wasn’t always a cook, and in fact, she didn’t really learn how to develop a palate or an aptitude for cooking until she moved to France. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Spitz lovingly covers her biography, starting with her parents’ meeting, family life, her childhood and adolescence, college years, and participating in the War effort. I didn’t realize the extent of her overseas life, nor that she met Paul through her international work. Once they marry and move to France, the familiarity of her biography starts to begin. I was fascinated to hear about the immense work that led to Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as well as the history behind her television show (hooray for public television!). I also vaguely remembered her death, and I didn’t realize her agency in asserting the ability to die on her own terms without suffering, and it inspired me to see her courage till the very end.
You don’t have to be a fan to enjoy this biography, because it balances vivid anecdote with faithful detail to her life. I’m not much of a biography reader, but Spitz is a natural storyteller, and his subject was a colorful, interesting person whose life inspired me to live mine with more intentionality.
Cross-posted to my blog.