Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child
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Titre : Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child
Éditeur : Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY
Date d'édition : 2012
Reliure : Hardcover
Etat du livre :New
Etat de la jaquette : New
Signé : Signed by Author(s)
Edition : 1st Edition
A propos de ce titre
It's rare for someone to emerge in America who can change our attitudes, our beliefs, and our very culture. It's even rarer when that someone is a middle-aged, six-foot three-inch woman whose first exposure to an unsuspecting public is cooking an omelet on a hot plate on a local TV station. And yet, that's exactly what Julia Child did. The warble-voiced doyenne of television cookery became an iconic cult figure and joyous rule-breaker as she touched off the food revolution that has gripped America for more than fifty years. Now, in Bob Spitz's definitive, wonderfully affectionate biography, the Julia we know and love comes vividly -- and surprisingly -- to life. In `Dearie,` Spitz employs the same skill he brought to his best-selling, critically acclaimed book `The Beatles,` ``providing a clear-eyed portrait of one of the most fascinating and influential Americans of our time -- a woman known to all, yet known by only a few. At its heart, `Dearie` is a story about a woman's search for her own unique expression. Julia Child was a directionless, gawky young woman who ran off halfway around the world to join a spy agency during World War II. She eventually settled in Paris, where she learned to cook and collaborated on the writing of what would become `Mastering the Art of French Cooking, ` a book that changed the food culture of America. She was already fifty when `The French Chef` went on the air -- at a time in our history when women weren't making those leaps. Julia became the first educational TV star, virtually launching PBS as we know it today; her marriage to Paul Child formed a decades-long love story that was romantic, touching, and quite extraordinary. A fearless, ambitious, supremely confident woman, Julia took on all the pretensions that embellished tony French cuisine and fricasseed them to a fare-thee-well, paving the way for everything that has happened since in American cooking, from TV dinners and Big Macs to sea urchin foam and the Food Channel. JuExtrait:
"Now, dearie, I will require a hot plate for my appearance on Professor Duhamel’s program.”
Russ Morash, who had answered the telephone in a makeshift office he shared with the volunteers at WGBH- TV, was momentarily startled, not so much by the odd request as by the odder voice. It had a quality he’d never heard before— tortured and asthmatic, with an undulating lyrical register that spanned two octaves. A woman’s voice? Yes, he thought, like a cross between Tallulah Bankhead and a slide whistle.
With brusque Yankee economy, Morash tried to decode the caller’s m.o. “You want— what?”
“A hot plate, dearie, so I can make an omelet.”
Doesn’t that beat all, he thought. A hot plate! An omelet! What kind of a stunt was this gal trying to pull? Morash had worked at the station for a little under four years, and in that time he had heard his share of doozies, but they were workaday doozies, what you’d expect to hear at “Boston’s Educational Television Station.” The principal clarinetist for the symphony orchestra needed an emergency reed replacement, a beaker broke during a Science Reporter rehearsal, those were the tribulations that befell such an operation. But— a hot plate . . . and an omelet . . .
“Well, from my experience that’s a first,” Morash told the caller, “but I’ll be happy to pass it on to Miffy Goodhart, when she gets in.”
The twenty-seven-year- old Morash knew that commercial television was in remarkable ascendance; since the end of World War II, it had catered to an enormous, entertainment- starved audience that was hungry for distraction, and creative minds were struggling to feed the greedy beast. But educational TV— and WGBH, in particular— was a different creature altogether. Educational TV was an anomaly, a broadcasting stepchild in its infancy, still in the crawling phase, with no real road map for meaningful development. “We were kind of making it up as we went along,” Morash says of an experiment that was barely six years old. “There was tremendous freedom in what we could put on the air.” Still, there was nothing exciting about the programs on WGBH. Audiences were as scarce as scintillating programming. A scattering of viewers tuned in to watch Eleanor Roosevelt spar with a panel of wonks; fewer tuned in Friday evenings when a local character, jazz priest Father Norman J. O’Connor, introduced musical figures from the Boston area. Otherwise there were no hits to speak of, nothing to attract people to the smorgasbord of brainy fare. The station was licensed through the Lowell Institute to the cultural institutions of Boston: the museum, the libraries, and eleven universities, including Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Boston College, Boston University, and Brandeis. The educational backdrop was a fantastic resource. Each member of the Institute provided support, financial and otherwise. If one of them said, “Hey, we’ve got a great professor. Let’s broadcast his lecture,” that was enough to launch a new show.
Such was the case with Albert Duhamel— make that P. Albert Duhamel— one of Boston College’s most lionized teachers. Duhamel was a man who loved books and their authors. A suave, strapping academic with a penchant for Harris tweed, he was addicted to the intellectual interplay that came from talking to writers about their work. Al was an author himself— his steamy Rhetoric: Principles and Usage was a campus blockbuster— and his show, People Are Reading, was the tent pole of WGBH’s Thursday-night lineup.
People Are Reading was the forerunner to shows like Fresh Air and Charlie Rose, but in those days, with a budget based primarily on the host’s pocket change, books on loan from his personal library, and no such thing as an author tour sponsored by a publisher, it was television— educational television— at the most basic level. Because the dirt- poor station shied from appearance fees, let alone train fare, the authors who appeared came mostly from the Boston area, and to make attracting them easier, guests were usually college colleagues— a noted economist or quantum physicist. Thus, in the words of one WGBH crew member, “The shows were dry as toast,” but plans were afoot to inject a little jam into the equation.
Morash, who was familiar with the show’s static format, realized that People Are Reading, however tedious, served the greater good. For one thing, it was the only book- review show in Boston— this was long before the days when “breakfast television” would trot out authors fi ve mornings a week— so there were no other outlets for writers promoting their work. And his neighbors, the university crowd, loved to read. They loved to read. They formed the show’s small, faithful audience, creating buzz about any book that happened to catch their fancy.
The guest who had telephoned, Morash imagined, might just throw this gang a curve. Later that day, when he caught up with Miffy Goodhart, he told her,
“Miffy, you’ve got a hot one here this week. Some dame named Julia Child called, and she wants a hot plate, thank you very much. She says she’ll bring all the other ingredients for— get this!— an omelet.”
Miffy wasn’t the least bit surprised by this last detail. As assistant producer of People Are Reading, she had conspired for some time to bring about a makeover to the show. It needed pizzazz, something to appeal to a wider spectrum of viewers, younger, more engaged viewers who looked beyond academia for their jollies. Politics, science, and literature were fine . . . in moderation, she thought. “But I was trying to lighten the mood and make it completely different,” she recalls.*
Goodhart had been hearing about Julia Child and her “super new cookbook” for some time. For several months, in fact, word had buzzed around Cambridge that this cookbook sensation, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, offered a remarkable new take on food, and once that crowd got it in their bonnets that something had cachet— well . . . look out! . . . there was no way to stop the groundswell. This Cambridge set— they were called Cantabrigians, of all things— saw themselves as an extremely enlightened circle, a clique of wellborn WASPs who were slightly bohemian and slightly rebellious. If there was someone in their midst who could entice their wary eye, you could be sure the Cantabrigians would take notice and respond.
That’s what Miffy Goodhart was banking on when she booked Julia Child for a segment of People Are Reading. All that week, Miffy awaited the Thursday- night broadcast with an eagerness that bordered on impatience. There had been something in this woman’s voice that promised to shake up the eggheads. She’d felt it from the start, when they’d first talked on the phone. There was an energy, a spark, that conveyed a broader characteristic. Miffy tried to put her finger on it. Spirit? Spunk? No, more than that— a joie de vivre laced with mischief. “Making an omelet on TV didn’t seem to confound Julia one scrap,” Miffy recalls.
“It’ll be fun, dearie!” Julia warbled. “We’ll teach the professor a thing or two. Just watch.”
LITTLE DID MIFFY Goodhart realize how much fun figured into Julia Child’s universe. It was the axis on which Julia’s world turned, the pivotal component in a groundswell of social change that would not only reshape the way Americans ate but the way they lived, as well. When Julia first appeared on television, as the insatiable 1960s unfolded, the marriage of fun and food were light-years apart. Most households remained devoted to Jell- O molds, frozen vegetables, and tuna-noodle casseroles. Barbarous meat- and- potatoes families roamed the earth; Swanson’s TV dinners were flying off supermarket shelves. Nothing on the menu spoke of well- made food and fun. Understanding how these elements eventually intersected goes toward understanding why the nation, at a crucial crossroads in its fast- moving history, anointed Julia Child its culinary messiah and beloved cultural icon. She was every bit a sixties superstar as Jackie Onassis or Walter Cronkite, whose personalities magnified the contributions they made. But unlike other luminaries fixed in the public eye, Julia gamely thrust a sense of humor into the mix. Cooking was fun for her, it was the shadow ingredient in every recipe in her repertoire, and she wanted everyone to experience it that way, too. This spirit was striking even in her youth. “I was sort of a comic,” Julia recalled of her storybook childhood, a natural cut- up, “just normally nutty.” As a young coed at Smith College, a roommate reflected that Julia “was almost too much fun,” due to a mischievous streak that competed with her studies. And in her diary, where she dished with only sketchy regularity, Julia confessed to a weakness for “an unconscious wicked devilish goodness.” But it took years— half a lifetime, in fact— to harness that behavior into her own unique expression. To master the art of cooking, French or otherwise, you first had to demystify the process, to not be intimidated by it, to be fearless, to plunge right in. Technique was essential, of course, but you had to find the pleasure in it. Without pleasure there was no payoff. The irrepressible reality of Julia Child was a combination of spontaneity, candor, and wit, which is why her passion for cooking bore unparalleled results. She not only brought fun headfirst into the modern American kitchen, a place that housewives equated with lifelong drudgery, but used it to launch public television into the spotlight, big-time.
NO ONE, THAT day in 1962, suspected the impact that Julia Child would have on their lives, not Russ Morash, who, with his wife, Marian, would be inextricably linked with her for the next thirty- five years, nor the suits at WGBH, which would become, thanks to Julia, a media colossus, one of the most influential producers of highbrow TV in the world and the platform for Julia’s rise to prominence. That day, you could sense the droning boredom inherent to educational television. The set was woefully spare: two leather Harvard chairs, a coffee table, and a fake philodendron, nothing more. The crew, uninspired, went about business with monotonous languor. It was hard to get it up for two scholars discussing a book.
There was some confusion in the studio leading up to airtime. The cameraman for People Are Reading apparently misheard the assignment. It sounded like the director said there would be . . . a live demonstration. Impossible! This show was a walk- through, practically a paid night off.
There was no rehearsal to speak of and, therefore, little for him to do. It was the same thing, week in, week out: two heads talking for a scant half hour. Since no one ever moved, the cameraman merely set up the shot and took a seat. Nothing to it.
But someone had gone and thrown a monkey wrench into the works. The guest actually was going to do a demonstration. On a book show, of all things! No rehearsal necessary; they’d go into it straightaway. And the camera set-up promised to be tricky. It was obvious the minute the guest walked in the door.
Julia Child wasn’t your basic Cambridge housewife. She was huge— Bill Russell huge— the kind of person who filled a room. And larger than life: her square footage, swimming in a loose- fitting blouse and pleated skirt, seemed to expand as she swung herself along as if nothing in the natural world could contain her. She was a fair, russet- haired woman, already fifty, going soft in her waist, yet well- aligned, with fine-toned arms that suggested constant physical use. Her body from the side provided a glimpse of the curse imposed on middle- aged women, with their expanding torsos and athletic legs, which threw their symmetry off balance. At six foot three that aspect verged on anarchy. Most women that size and build appeared lumbering, gently clumsy. But there was an aristocratic self- possession in the way Julia carried herself, something solid, yet graceful, that gave her presence an assertive, irrefutable quality. Her size seemed like a tool she could use, like a car salesman with a grin, though she resisted turning it into an unfair advantage.
Whatever anxieties weighed on the cameraman when he learned there would be a demonstration, he could not have been prepared for the spectacle Julia created. He was clearly awestruck by her, pop- eyed and openmouthed. This impression was punctuated by the paraphernalia cradled in her arms. Framed under a bank of overhead spots, she stood in the middle of the studio clutching a ring burner, a long- handled pan, and a distended bag of groceries: ready to roll. In the coming years, that very image— Julia Child, poised and prepared, in a TV kitchen— became the iconic image of cooking in America. But in 1962, this was quite an odd scene. Cooking, like sex, was practiced privately— and, some might say, without much enthusiasm— in the home. Few gave the process much of a second thought. Preparing a delicious meal on TV, with an elaborate array of ingredients and specialized equipment, was unheard of, to say nothing of harebrained. The notion of Julia lumbering about in front of the camera, juggling pots, pans, and who- knows- what- all, flanked by a baffled host who couldn’t have cared less about cooking, much less her book, could not have escaped the cameraman’s gaping eye. When Julia finally piped up and those vocal flourishes, the trills and flutters, began to shoot about like fireworks, the image turned almost comical.
Against the general tide of upheaval running through the studio, Miffy Goodhart attempted to reassure her guest. She knew that Julia had no experience in front of a TV camera. Nothing was more likely to flummox a novice performer than talking to a host while cooking a recipe. They were two dissimilar acts, like patting your head and rubbing your stomach. To make matters worse, the show was going out live, so, in effect, they were flying without a safety net. The chances for disaster were better than good. To distract Julia, Miffy filled the downtime with an explanation of their whereabouts, which had been cobbled together in appreciable haste. Some months before, WGBH had occupied space in a reconverted roller- skating rink on the MIT campus, a state- of- the- art television center with gorgeous hardwood floors. Everyone at the station—the production staff and crew— was notorious for “smoking their brains out” on the job, leading to a horrific fire that burned the place to the ground. Everything was lost, except for the trusty mobile unit, an old Trailways bus with about seven million miles on it. Thanks to that, they could broadcast from various borrowed facilities. One of them, in fact, was the studio they were prepping at the moment, the Boston University Catholic Center, in which the Diocese of Boston produced the morning Mass. Perfunctorily, the People Are Reading stagehands pushed the religious objects out of the way. A hawk- eyed viewer could still mak...
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