I once was accused of being a francophile, as though I ought to be ashamed of being enamored with all things French- like I shouldn’t admire their style, romance, and sophistication. If the intention was to insult me, it wasn’t effective. I do love France. I love Paris, I love Brittany, and I love Normandy. I love lavender, I love Monet, and I love wine. And I positively adore Julia Child, who moved to Paris with her husband, Paul, in 1948. I am so inspired by a woman who, at age 40, stepped out of her comfort zone and learned something new…and then totally mastered it.
I can relate to that experience of being somewhere new and feeling that need to learn something completely different. Last year I somewhat accidentally joined a Tahitian dance halau. I had not danced since I was in a tutu at age 5, and I wasn’t particularly graceful then, either. I was terrified and completely out of place. Now, a year and a half later, I savor my Monday nights when I leave the house all by myself and go bump my hips to a drum beat so completely unfamiliar to me but that is becoming ingrained into my psyche. I relish it. It is something new and exciting and fascinating and it is all mine- the only activity that I do consistently without the kids. Now I’m not saying that I will ever be to Tahitian dance what Julia Child is to cooking (i.e. a doyen or even, well, kind of good at it), but I can appreciate that need to try something new as an…ahem…older dog.
I read the Julie and Julia book, which was based on a yearlong blog project in which a young woman named Julie was searching for some direction in her life and needed a goal, so she picked up Mastering the Art of French Cooking and decided to cook every single recipe out of it over the course of a year and blog about her (mis)adventures. It was a great idea and I’ve totally been (am) there- having that need for a purpose, a plan when you’re kind of floundering through life. After I read that, I read My Life in France, which was a memoir of Julia’s written with the help of her nephew Alex Prud’Homme. From the first page, I was absolutely enthralled by her life and, well, her person, really. She was so polite and lovely, and also so brave and capable and adventurous! And so deliciously in love with Paul. I devoured the book. And of course I loved the movie- Meryl Streep made it so much more than it needed to be. I remember being in the middle of the movie and thinking to myself that I had a huge smile on my face, that it was just so much better than I had expected it to be because Meryl, well, come on now, she’s Meryl Streep being Julia Child. What could be better?
So imagine my face when I came across this book at the library last week:
IT’S ABOUT JULIA CHILD’S CAT!!!! I remember reading about Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child in her book, and now some clever writer has come up with the idea to create a children’s book about that lucky, lucky cat! Susanna Reich, to be exact, and the book is called Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat.
Minette loves her Julia, and shows her that love by bringing her mice. They are her favorite, of course, and she prefers them to any bits of food set in front of her, even when the treats are provided by the inimitable Julia Child.Of course, as Julia begins her studies and as she improves, Minette comes to treasure her cooking. Just not as much as she treasures mice. She is a cat, after all.
Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child was a very lucky cat, perhaps the luckiest cat in all of Paris. She lived upstairs in an old gray house, one block from the River Seine. Day and night she could hear the bells of Sainte-Clotilde tolling the hour. And day and night she could smell the delicious smells of mayonnaise, hollandaise, cassoulets, cheese soufflés, and duck patés wafting from the pots and pans of her owner, Julia Child. Bon appétit, Minette!
The writing is so colorful and energetic, so lyrical and charming, like Julia herself. And I’m a big fan of the lovely, vintage-y watercolor and pencil illustrations- tres magnifique!
Have you taken the leap later in life and tried something new, totally out of your comfort zone? I’m thinking I may try sewing next. After all, I’m just hopeless in the kitchen…
Oh, and also? How awesome is this video?