"As Always, Julia" edited by Joan Reardon

As Always, Julia
Edited by Joan Reardon
432 pages, $26.00
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; December 1, 2010

It all started with a fan letter written in March of 1953.  “Housewife” and food junkie Julia Child wrote a letter to Mr. Bernard DeVoto agreeing with his “diatribe” against stainless steel knives in an article he’d written for Harper’s magazine. Julia’s letter was answered by Bernard’s wife, Avis.  Many of us learned about the friendship between Julia and Avis DeVoto in the 2009 hit film, Julie and Julia. Now we are blessed with the treat that is Joan Reardon’s As Always, Julia

Joan Reardon has done a superb job in selecting, compiling, editing and referencing what was originally more than four hundred letters written by Julia and Avis. Ms. Reardon is a culinary historian, cookbook author, and biographer.  She also edits a quarterly newsletter for Les Dames d’Escoffier Chicago and serves on the advisory board of Gastronomica.  In other words, Ms. Reardon knows her way around a kitchen and it shows!

Within the 430+ pages of this book, the letters not only chronicle the growing friendship between Julia and Avis, they also serve as steadfast barometer of the times. The letters span the years between 1953 and 1961. The world was changing rapidly and the commentary and banter that flows back and forth reflects the post-World War II “jet age” experiences.  One of the things I found amazing was the pro-and-con 1953 debate spurred by new “labor saving devices,” in particular, the automatic dish washer, something a 2010 household thinks nothing about. However, Avis is appalled that the glasses and dishes have to be rinsed, that pots and pans shouldn’t be put in, and all things considered, they don’t clean that well.

Another discussion that takes place between Avis and Julia is one that would not take place today:  the scarcity of fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables during the “off season.”  Now-a-days most everything is available year round. They shared their struggles with cooking food within the “seasons”  and offered each other alternatives to fresh foods, frozen (not so good) and canned (not so good always either).

This is a wonderful book of letters that shares more than the growth of a long distance friendship.  As Always, Julia  follows the publication of Julia’s ground breaking cookbook, Mastering The Art of French Cooking.  Through the eyes of these two savvy, well read, well traveled, and very opinionated women we see the politics of the time, the McCarthy era, as well as their thoughts on American “fast food,”  how to make a beurre blanc, and the perils of the frozen turkey.

As Always, Julia is a valentine to every cook, wanna-be cook, chef, and food lover out there. It’s also a valentine to a friendship that survived decades.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  As Always, Julia is a wonderful read and it will make a fabulous gift to anyone who loves food and believes in enduring, unselfish friendships. Buy several, one to read and the rest to share with friends!

If I gave stars, this is a sweet 5 out of 5 stars!

Source: This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request and in no way affected by review.  

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