Friday, December 31, 2010

On reading Julia Child (preparation is no free lunch)

I have just finished reading Julia Child's My Life in France. It is full of wonderful-sounding food--so much so that, while it's a level of cooking detail I have seldom even approached ("nothing is too much trouble" is a repeated phrase in the memoir), I find myself wanting my very own copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In hardcover.

But, cooking aside, one of the things I enjoyed most in the book were the attention to traveling and to cultural adaptation--and to a kind of translation, as Child worked to write up a particular kind of French cooking in terms an American cook (of a particular time) might understand and embrace. I enjoyed the energy with which she threw herself into learning new languages as Foreign Service postings took the Childs to Germany and Norway. France may have been her great love, but there was still a big, wide, varied world to understand. I loved her insistence on learning enough of the local language to go to the market--that is, to talk to the people around her. 

And perhaps my favorite passage, which has nothing to do with cooking: 

"As our ferryboat from Denmark made its way up the winding Oslo Fjord in May 1959, we looked at the granite boulders and high cliffs covered with pine trees, sniffed the cool, salty-piney air, and said to each other: 'Norway is just like Maine!' Which it was, and it wasn't.
You can prepare yourself to enter a new culture, but the reality always takes some getting used to."

Here's to a new year of preparation and getting used to--aprendiendo a enseñarnos en otros lugares, con nuevos sabores. A good 2011 to all!

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