It’s heartening to see Julia Child’s “Mastering The Art Of French Cooking” topping the bestseller lists – but a little hard to digest the company it’s keeping there.
Along with "Mastering," the New York Times hardcover “Advice, How-To, and Miscellaneous” list this week includes one other food-related title. It’s also about mastering: “Master Your Metabolism,” a weight-loss plan.
On the paperback bestseller list, Julia’s "Kitchen Wisdom" also arrived this week at #1. It joins others with longer reigns: “Hungry Girl 200 Under 200,” a book of “two hundred recipes with fewer than 200 calories,” plus the self-explanatory “Cook Yourself Thin,” and, a two-year veteran of the list, “Skinny Bitch,” billed as “vegan diet advice from the world of modeling.”
At #10 we find a more caloric but equally depressing offering, a collection of “copycat favorite recipes” inspired by fast-food restaurants. Doubtless each has its own reasons for ascending the list, but none sound much like the sunny joy of cooking displayed in the “Julie and Julia” movie that sent Child’s books shooting up the charts.
Watching the movie didn’t send me back to Child’s cookbooks this week, but, rather, to her biography. I’ve been reading Laura Shapiro’s newly reissued “Julia Child: A Life”. It covers some of the same charming ground as the movie does – and much more. In her later years, it noted, Child groaned in a letter to an old friend that she was “TOO FAT!”, and went on to a face lift in 1971, writing with relief about “(N)o turkey neck! No dewlaps!”
I can’t believe Julia would have studied calorie counts or embraced a vegan weight-loss plan. But at least she was as human in her own way as the public that loved her.
Rebekah Denn writes at eatallaboutit.com.