Happy Birthday Julia Child!

Julia Child would have turned 100 today, and the Internet is abuzz with tributes to the grande dame of American culinary instruction. What a great theme for a book group meeting!

Start off at the PBS website, which has links to all things Julia. Your group could screen an episode of her classic show via streaming video to get a taste of her unforgettable presence and speech pattern, then perhaps look on YouTube for Meryl Streep’s bravura impersonation in Julie and Julia or even Dan Aykroyd’s funny spoofs from old Saturday Night Live episodes. The PBS site also has a nice sampling of trivia questions about Julia and an archive of her quotes. 

Of course the heart of the meeting would be devoted to books by and about Julia. There’s Julie Powell’s aforementioned book (turned into a better film) about her attempts to cook the recipes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a tiny New York apartment. Even better than that, there’s Child’s memoir (written with Alex Prud’homme) My Life in France, about her love affair with France, with its cuisine, and most of all with her husband Paul from just after WWII until his death in 1994.

That’s just the first course. Last week, biographer Bob Spitz released our entree: what might be the definitive Julia biography, the 576 page Dearie: the Remarkable Life of Julia Child. Another recommended title is As Always, Julia: the Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. These delightful letters between Child and her lifelong friend provide the unexpurgated version of the same time period covered in My Life in France.

Finally, don’t forget to eat. It wouldn’t be a Julia Child meeting without food. There are many cookbooks from which your group can pick the best recipe for a shared culinary adventure, or you can ask some of your braver members to put in some advance kitchen work and bring the results to the meeting.

Bon appetit!

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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