I have always loved to cook. Since I was a young child, I found cooking to be an escape and I became good at it. Ordinary cooking, nothing too fancy. When I did terribly in school, when I was awkward and goofy with braces, when I got in trouble for doing something bad I could always find my confidence again by cooking. There were ten kids in my family and by the time I was eight I was cooking for them all. Chicken Kiev was a specialty, little balls of breast stuffed with butter and herbs. My darling daughter knows this passion of mine and so last summer after working for my mother in her photography studio for several weeks — running errands around Princeton, greeting customers, even assisting her with shoots — my daughter, Livia, took her earnings and bought tickets to Nora Efron’s movie, Julie and Julia, for herself, my mother, and me. She also bought for me Julie Powell’s book Julie and Julia and Julia Child’s My Life In France. Livia, at the time, was nine years old.
I had just finished a novel and was feeling empty, casting about. Livia somehow knew this, that I needed some inspiration. Alas, it took me about six months to get to, but when I finally did I was inspired indeed: clearly like the millions of people who have already read the book. What I love about My Life In France is the portrait of genius Child unwittingly creates of herself. Through her passion for cooking you understand vividly what it means to be a genius. Her obsession to understand, for example, how to make the baquette as the French do but in America with American ingredients leads Child on a two year adventure. She uses over 700 pounds of flour before she nails it. How many of us, no matter our trade, have that committment to precision, to what we love to do? Not many, I would guess — and perhaps that’s what separates us. And the other bit of beauty: her desire for knowledge, her fantastic curiosity color her life with happiness.