The Pure and the Impure (New York Review Books Classics)

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A Year in Reading: Bonny Wolf

Bonny Wolf is the author of Talking with My Mouth Full: Crab Cakes, Bundt Cakes and Other Kitchen Stories (St Martins, 2006), the host of Kitchen Window, NPR’s food podcast; a commentator for NPR’s Weekend Edition; and a food columnist for The Washington Post. More information is available at www.bonnywolf.com.Julia Child and Judith Jones both went to Paris for the first time in 1948, beginning a journey that changed their lives and the way Americans cook.”It’s quite possible that we passed Judith and Evan (her husband) on the street, or that we stood next to each other at a cocktail party, for we were leading parallel lives,” Child writes in her memoir My Life in France. “But we never met in Paris.”They didn’t learn of each other until the summer of 1959 when a huge manuscript on French cooking by Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle landed on Jones’ desk at Knopf where she was an editor.”I was bouleversee, as the French say – knocked out,” Jones writes in her memoir The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food. “This was the book I’d been searching for.”My Life in France was published in 2006, two years after Child’s death at age 91. Her grandnephew, Alex Prud’homme, put together the story of her formative time in France from conversations with her, letters, notes and photographs, many taken by her husband Paul.The two memoirs make a lovely couple. Together, a clear picture emerges of the somewhat appalling food scene in the U.S. after World War II and how much these two women – after a few years in Paris – effected change.Their voices are different: Jones is reserved and private while Child is exuberant and forthright. Their stories, however, are similar. Both grew up in homes with hired cooks and were educated at eastern women’s colleges (Smith for Child, Bennington for Jones). Both married older men who they considered soulmates and neither couple had children. Both women fell in love with France and its food, and both believed home cooking could be excellent.Jones went on to bring out books by many important food writers including Claudia Roden, Marcella Hazan, Edna Lewis and Marion Cunningham. She was also the editor of literary figures such as John Updike and Anne Tyler.Her publishing career began when she pulled from the reject pile Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. All of this is part of the story told in The Tenth Muse. (The 19th-century French gourmet Brillat-Savarin called food the 10th muse.)Julia Child, of course, went on to become Julia Child. My Life in France is a wonderful window through which to look at how she went from, in her words, “a six-foot-two-inch … rather loud and unserious Californian” to the meticulous cook who taught Americans how to cook like the French.More from A Year in Reading 2007

A Year in Reading: Rosecrans Baldwin

Rosecrans Baldwin is a founding editor of The Morning News, where he writes the Letters from Paris column. His stories have elsewhere appeared in the New York Times, the Nation, and on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He and his wife live in France.I moved to France this year, and for a few months I tried to read or reread mostly French authors – Zola, Flaubert, David Sedaris, and Colette. I love Colette. Two years ago on a trip to Santa Fe I read one of her “Cheri” novels and was surprised by how much of a soap opera she packed in a very slim volume, and so I picked up The Pure and the Impure with high hopes. All were met. Sort of a series of interviews about love and sex, it’s swift but persuasive.Moving abroad, I’ve also been pushed (by the pickings at the neighborhood bookstore) to discover new detectives. Sweden’s Hakan Nesser writes the Inspector Van Veeteren mysteries. Borkmann’s Point turned out to be a plodding, enjoyable procedural, with an ending I didn’t see coming, even if my wife predicted it by halfway through – but she’s always doing that, while I’m the one at the movie theater flabbergasted when the hacksaw turns up in the butler’s room.More from A Year in Reading 2007

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