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Judith and Julia

(post, Jean Henrich)

I recently read [/books/collections/all_books/The+Tenth+Muse "The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food"] by Judith Jones. It's a wonderful memoir by an editor who befriended many great chefs and shepherded them into print, allowing generations of home cooks to benefit from their expertise. Although you don't really feel like you know Judith herself very intimately by the end, you come pretty early to conclude she is well-connected and very good at her job, and that she has impeccable taste and instincts. Judith is a non-chef who simply loves food and experimenting in the kitchen, and her clean, direct writing style makes you think you can easily tackle the recipes she includes at the end.

Judith Jones is famously the editor who brought Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" into print. My interest in Julia was first piqued when I read her posthumous memoir [/content/3746 "My Life in France"] (written with Alex Prud’Homme) a few years ago.

The book was a revelation. Young Julia fairly jumped out of the page in a new and fresh way that dispelled images of the caricature older Julia. In her completely open style, she draws you in so that from page one you are right there with her, walking the streets, smelling the air, tasting the food, and meeting the people of Julia’s France. She and her co-author neither overdramatize nor pull punches in describing her experiences at the Cordon Bleu, her first successes and failures with preparing French cuisine, and her extraordinary relationship with her husband. The book is funny, sad, loving, and (sometimes brutally) honest. Julia’s amazing combination of determinedness, aplomb, and old-fashioned hard work ensured her success in every ground-breaking endeavor she attempted – whether it was learning to cook traditional French food, opening a cooking school, compiling and editing a definitive French cookbook for Americans, or demonstrating how to cook on TV for the first time. It’s one of the most inspirational memoirs I’ve ever read.

Although becoming a "master" of French cuisine is not even something I aspire to, Julia's memoir awakened in me a desire to experience that joy that can come from attention to the preparation and eating of good food, and Judith Jones reminded me of the pleasures that can result.