Happy birthday, Julia Child! The American grand dame of French Cuisine passed away in 2004, but she would have been 100 today. All my life I have been a fan of Julia Child, who was a pioneer in teaching Americans the fine art of cooking and was renowned for her TV show “The French Chef.”
Now I’m so delighted that I get to introduce my daughter to Julia Child via a brand new marvelous children’s book called “Bon Appétit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child” by Jessie Hartland.
The book has whimsical, childlike illustrations, and it’s almost like a comic book or graphic novel, with various cells on each page depicting different aspects of each chapter of Julia’s life. It is best enjoyed not reading left to right, but rather allowing your eye to wonder around the page, taking in everything the real life characters are saying and doing. Hartland depicts the development of Julia Child’s most important accomplishment, her world famous cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” with humor, building suspense as the characters express their worries and frustrations in speech and thought bubbles.
This tale will captivate children, especially girls, as it draws the young reader in with tales of the many adventures in Julia’s life (she even worked as a spy during World War II!). An incredibly complex recipe for a galantine (a cold poached meat dish) is illustrated with 32 astonishing steps. Children might find that a few of the ingredients sound a little unsavory, including red pickled tongue, cow’s udder, veal knuckles, and calves’ feet. For grownups, the thought of the jelly fat aspic coating might not go down so well. Nevertheless, after reading the recipe in its entirety, I was left with my mouth watering, and perhaps even a hankering to tackle it myself. This book might just encourage kids to be a little more adventurous when it comes to eating.
Brandy, cognac, wine and beer are mentioned in the book, but mainly as cooking ingredients, or to accompany a grownup meal, and they are necessary. The recipes wouldn’t be possible without them.
Hartland’s new book has heart and whimsy, and I really enjoyed sharing it with my daughter. She is a little young for it yet, but I know she enjoyed the pictures, and she was asking questions about the characters and even picking up on a few French words (she actually called me “Mamon,” French for mom!). This book is a great way to introduce children to French culture and cuisine. Not to mention that Julia Child is one of the greatest American women of all time, and an amazing role model. Through hard work and dedication, she realized her dreams and changed the way Americans cook and eat forever.
I will never forget my own personal encounter with Julia Child. She toured my college dining hall as part of a visit to the campus, and when she walked through she turned to us and said, “Bon appétit!” Of course, we were only eating cafeteria food, but after hearing her kind wishes, the meal tasted so much better. For Julia Child, life truly was delicious.
Leilani and I prepared crèpes from the recipe included at the book’s end.
Check out our adventure:
A special thanks to Random House Children’s Books and YC Media for providing my complimentary review copy.