One of my best talents is reading buzzed-about books 5-10 years after they come out. If you’re ever browsing at a bookstore and a woman nudges you in the arm to whisper conspiratorially about a great new author she just discovered named David Foster Wallace, well, that’s probably me. In keeping with my late-to-the-literary-party theme, a couple weeks ago I read Julia Child’s memoir, My Life In France. Yes, the book that came out in 2006 and was turned into a movie 5 years ago. Have you read it? It’s so, so good.
The whole time I was reading My Life In France, I had a goofy grin plastered on my face. It’s such a lovely, joyful book. The amazing food descriptions, her playful relationship with her husband, the gorgeous imagery of Paris, her dogged determination to become the best chef she could be — everything about it inspired me and soothed my soul. By the time I finished, I was such a Julia fangirl that I printed out an 8×10 photo of her and hung it in a blue glitter frame over my desk. Here are some specific quotes from the book that are going to stay with me at least as long as the weight I gained from eating cheese while reading it:
1. “I was 37 years old and still discovering who I was.” Next time you feel like you’re running out of time to find your life purpose, consider this fact: legendary chef Julia Child, the woman who introduced proper French cooking to America, had never been to France or tasted French food until she was 36, and didn’t publish her first cookbook until 13 years later. It’s never too late to discover your passion and pursue it with wild abandon.
2. “Just speak very loudly and quickly, and state your position with utter conviction, as the French do, and you’ll have a marvelous time!” As with so many pieces of wisdom, this applies to both dinner parties and life in general. I don’t know about you, but I’m never speaking quietly and slowly again.
3. “Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis.” Mistakes happen. Unexpected difficulties crop up. Nothing’s ever as perfect as we wish it was. Oh well, too bad! Just make the best of whatever situation you find yourself in. You’ll be fine.
4. “You have to do it and do it, until you get it right.” In this case Julia was referring to perfecting her baguette recipe, which took her two full years of constant testing and tweaking to get right. As a perfectionist oldest child, I tend to give myself about one chance to be good at something before I give up and move on to safer, less-likely-to-fail endeavors. Now whenever I feel myself frustrated and ready to quit, I think of Julia and those baguettes, and I try it again.
5. “How lovely life can be if one takes time to be friendly.” Co-signed times infinity.Whether you’re exploring a new country for the first time or picking up your morning coffee at the cafe you visit every day, being kind, open, and chatty can open so many doors.
6. “No one’s more important than people.” One thing that struck me about My Life In France was how social Julia and her husband Paul were. Even when they were both extremely busy, tired, and dealing with difficult health and job issues, they never passed up the opportunity to host or attend a party, or take a road trip with a new friend, or have someone over for coffee and cake. As someone who spends most nights watching Netflix in my jammies, I was inspired by the rich, full life the Childs created by prioritizing their social connections. Must try this sometime.
7. “One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.” Preach, Julia! Seriously, sub in the word “life” for “cooking” and this sentiment is still true, maybe even truer. Do what you can, and then let it go.