When not cooking, it was obvious that the woman known to most as the Queen of the Kitchen still adored food, from shopping for it to dining out in the many countries the Childs moved to. After Paul Child was finished in France (known for lavish and well-executed meals) they were relocated to Germany, Norway and finally “home” to the United States, where Julia explored both the native cuisine and some of the more “outlandish” fare such as fledgling Chinese fare in Berlin.
It is clear that the letters in As Always were written by not only food lovers, but food writers. The subtle, yet distinct flair the two use in their language and understanding of each other rings of the exacting standards of classic English teachers... and not just due to the era of their penning. The style of their writing, however, does make for a book that is rather “chewy”. While filled with good information and certainly not lacking in emotion, the book is also packed with anachronistic political talk and sayings which often warrant a footnote for explanation. It is more confusing for those readers who did not grow up in the 1950’s and never “caught up” on the general gossip of the time, especially if they do not hail from the U.S. Admittedly, that confusion coupled with the sheer length of each letter (admitted in passing by both of them to be excessive!) does lead to dryness in As Always, and most readers will find their attention straying out of boredom. Granted, the letters were picked out of what must have been an extensive array for their content, but the “food-minded” audience this book would appeal to will find the political satire lost on them.
It is a shame that Avis DeVoto’s story and true gifts to the concoction of Mastering the Art of French Cooking are not widely known. Had she been in France at the beginning of the Trois Gourmandes, the trio would have undoubtedly been a foursome. DeVoto was an excellent cook and writer in her own right, and easily could have written an “American cook’s” cookbook even before her introduction to the world of Julia Child’s cuisine. However, Julia Child is Julia Child, and her infectious personality and energy even in the depths of misery (following the Houghton Mifflin rejection) is one of the driving forces of the compilation. In As Always, Julia, the combination of the two women create a recipe for letter writing as wonderfully emulsified as a perfect Caesar dressing – it’s just tart enough, full of zip and goes down easy.Available on Amazon