During our trip to Paris last month, I received an email from the publisher of "The French Chef in America: Julia Child's Second Act" to let me know they were sending me an advance copy for review.
I may or may not have done a little dance in our hotel room. Coincidentally, we were staying just a few blocks from 81 Rue de l’Université - where Julia Child and her husband Paul lived when they moved to Paris in 1948 (I may have asked Scott to snap photos of me in front of that address on more than one occasion).
But that story - and "Julie & Julia," the excellent movie it inspired starring Meryl Streep as Julia - only explores her early years. It does not go into much depth about her "second act" that launched shortly after the Childs returned to the States and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts and "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was published.
This new book picks up where the first one left off, with the publication of what was the first of many books - and how she parlayed interviews about "Mastering" into an empire and a television career that extended well into the 1990s. Basically, you see the development and progression of how she became the "Julia Child" we know today.
Decades before The Food Network, food blogs and the practice of Instagramming every lunch and cup of coffee, Julia became the first true food celebrity and laid the groundwork for those who would follow. Viewers related to her approachable style, sense of humor, and ability to teach people to cook what could be complicated dishes. She appealed to post-war American cooks who were becoming fascinated with French cuisine and culture, and who wanted to move beyond dinner staples such as casseroles and Jell-O "salads."
Julia is also an inspiration for people who have not yet found their career niche. After all - she did not even start cooking until she was in her late 30s - let alone write cookbooks or become a media celebrity.
In fact, she was almost 50 when she did her first TV interview! I started my TV career at 31 - which seemed very late at the time.
Another great lesson is the value of having a spouse who is your greatest fan, cheerleader and partner - something I can totally relate to! Paul Child was just that for her, and he also happened to have the creative, marketing, photography and PR skills that supported her work. Ten years her senior, his career was winding down as hers was taking off, which enabled him to focus all of his skills and efforts into helping build the Julia Child "brand."
Once you start reading, your only distraction may be a desire to head into the kitchen and whip up something fabulous for dinner.