This month marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Julia Child, a beloved and iconic individual who changed the way Americans think about food and cooking. Accordingly, a new biography called Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child has just been released. Author Bob Spitz brings together personal diaries and letters to tell her story in a captivating new way, cooking up a “deliciously satisfying read” (Huffington Post).
If you’d like to commemorate her birthday with a book, another great choice would be My Life in France. Published in 2006, this memoir was written in part by Julia Child and completed after her death by a grand nephew, Alex Prud'homme. It recounts her time in France: the great romance of her marriage, the delicious meals, and the unforgettable story of how she learned the skills of a master chef. My Life in France is “charming, idiosyncratic and much fun--just like its author” (Kirkus). Last year’s A Covert Affair : The Adventures of Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS by Jennet Conant tells the less known story of Julia and Paul Child’s service in the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA) in this “well-researched, entertaining, and fast-paced read” (Library Journal). Or perhaps you’d like to take a stab at cooking up something from her inspirational cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Or, if you’re a fiction reader and you're hungry for a culinary-themed novel, here’s a menu for you:
In the Kitchen
by Monica Ali
Booker Prize-shortlisted author Monica Ali's long-awaited second novel brings readers into the vivid world of a London restaurant kitchen.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
By Aimee Bender
Being able to taste people's emotions in food may at first be horrifying. But young, unassuming Rose Edelstein grows up learning to harness her gift as she becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.
The Epicure's Lament
By Kate Christensen
For ten years, Hugo Whittier, upper-class scion, former gigolo, failed belle lettriste, has been living a hermit's existence at Waverly, his family's crumbling mansion overlooking the Hudson River. He passes the time reading Montaigne and M. F. K. Fisher, cooking himself delicious meals, smoking an endless number of cigarettes, and nursing a grudge against the world. But his older brother, Dennis, has returned, in retreat from an unhappy marriage, and so has his estranged wife, Sonia, and their (she claims) daughter Bellatrix, shattering Hugo's cherished solitude.
Beat Until Stiff
By Claire M. Johnson
A San Francisco pastry chef reveals the cutthroat restaurant trade in this mystery featuring restaurant manager Mary Ryan. When Mary finds the dead body of one of her employees, the investigation exposes all the dirty secrets that the food business would like to keep under wraps.
Hungry Woman in Paris
By Josefina López
From the celebrated author of Real Women Have Curves, a young woman, disillusioned with life, runs away to Paris and enrolls in cooking school to reawaken her senses and mend her broken heart.
By Marsha Mehran
Three Iranian sisters--Marjan, Layla, and Bahar Aminpour--flee the turmoil of the Islamic Revolution in their native country to seek refuge in Ireland, where they open the exotic Babylon Cafe.
John Saturnall's Feast (coming soon)
By Lawrence Norfolk
Taken in at the kitchens at Buckland Manor after the cruel death of his mother, young John quickly rises from kitchen boy to cook before catching the attention of the daughter of the lord of the manor, who resolves to starve herself until her father calls off her unwanted engagement.
Baking Cakes in Kigali
By Gaile Parkin
Rendered a confidant and supportive friend for her willingness to listen to her neighbors in genocide-stricken Rwanda, baker Angel Tungaraza provides decadent confections and transforming counsel to a series of troubled customers.
by Jaspreet Singh
Kirpal Singh reminisces on his life as a Sikh cook in the military camp at the foot of the Siachen Glacier in Kashmir and how his friendship with Irem, a Pakistani woman arrested for entering Kashmir illegally, made him question the tumultuous conflict between India and Pakistan.
The Book of Salt
By Monique T. D. Truong
Considering whether he will accompany his employers, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, to America, a personal cook remembers his youth in French-colonized Vietnam and his days cooking for the doyennes of the Lost Generation.
Please post any reading suggestions or birthday wishes in the comments. Happy birthday Julia!