Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 8, 1952


There is a particular pleasure which comes when a reader starts reading a book on the exact day that book began. This happened last year on May 1, and again today.



Julia Child's first letter in As Always, Julia was written sixty years ago today. Her great, long friendship with Avis DeVoto began with a letter Julia wrote to Avis' husband in response to a magazine piece he had written.


Dear Mr. De Voto:
Your able diatribe against the beautiful-beautiful-rust-proof-edge-proof American kitchen knife so went to my heart that I cannot refrain from sending you this nice little French model as a token of my appreciation.
For the past three years here, I've had the good fortune to be able to spend my life studying French cooking and have amassed a most satisfyingly professional batterie de cuisine, including a gamut of excellent French knives. When we were in the USA last summer I picked up four beautiful-beautiful American stainless steel housewives knives, of different makes, to try them out. But I have been quite unable to sharpen them satisfactorily. I am therefore wondering if the average American housewife really wants a sharp knife in the kitchen, as many of my compatriots accuse me resentfully: "But your knives are so sharp! They're dangerous!"
If you are in need of some good professional knives, I would be very pleased to get some for you, and the prices are modest:

This one is about 70¢ (280 francs)
8-inch blade, about $2.40
7-inch flexible fish filleter, about $1.00

Mailed from here Fourth Class, one or two at a time, there seems to be no duty to pay at your end.
We do enjoy you in Harper's!

Most sincerely,
Julia Child
(Mrs. Paul Child)


Because Bernard DeVoto was very busy, his wife Avis wrote back to Julia instead of her husband, and from such a pleasant little fan letter came a lifetime of letters and friendship between the two women.

My friend Les is reading As Always, Julia as her year-long book. Les' mother, Tia read it like this:
I read As Always, Julia as if the letters were arriving at intervals. I kept it by my spot on the sofa where I picked it up during the days over a period of four months and a bit.
Isn't that delightful? I haven't decided just how I will read these letters. Maybe I'll read them all at once, or maybe a few at a time.

25 comments:

  1. I bet this is a good read. I love reading books of letters. Julia was such a good writer. I will have to see if I can find this one. I must say that if I get a good book I gobble it up. It is difficult for me to just read a little at a time.

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    1. I do, too. I'm the same way, usually. But I do like Tia's way of reading these letters.

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  2. I think I'd find it hard to ration Julia as she's such fun. An American friend of ours had dinner with her once. I asked him what they ate (she cooked for him): gin and oysters!

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    1. I love it! Do you suppose they were mixed together? :<)

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  3. I love that letter! In fact, I love reading letters, especially from 'that' generation - before the total takeover of the telephone (and later the internet). My mother has found some of the letters she received from my grandfather, and they have the same tone, which is really delightful to read. I may have to go out and find this book...

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    1. I do, too. How wonderful for your mother. I think you'll love this delightful book. Julia's spirit comes right through her letters.
      I guess all our blogs are letters, aren't they?

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  4. I can hear her voice in the letter, loud and clear. Would knives make it through customs these days I wonder?
    I too would find it hard to ration, I'm sure I'd keep thinking, 'just one more'!
    To curb my too rampant enthusiasm for Amazon, I always give up book buying for Lent, however I do have an ever growing list for the future, this is going on that list pronto!
    Carole

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    1. I thought of the same thing! I've been transferring my own 'too rampant enthusiasm' toward B&N these days. I fear A. taking over the book world.

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  5. This sounds like such a good book and, I admit, I like the idea of reading it a wee bit at a time, rather than swallowing it up quickly. And I, too, wondered about sending knives through the post!

    I often feel guilty about spending ages sending e-mails and FaceBook messages to friends, but it's really just a modern way of writing letters, isn't it? In one of my favourite O. Douglas books, 'A Proper Place', the mother spends most of her day sitting at her desk, writing to friends and relatives. I don't spend QUITE as long as that.......

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    1. I will be interested myself in how I end up reading it. :<)

      It absolutely is, as is the time spent writing your thoughtful blog.

      People in other times did set aside big chunks of time in communicating. It really is all the same, just different.

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    2. Will there ever be letters worth reading published again? I doubt it. I think letters are as dead as the passenger pigeon-

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  6. Oh, I would read them all! I love letters! LOVED that movie with Meryl Streep playing Julia. Don't you just know that Julia would have HOOTED at the thought of Meryl Streep playing her?
    Have you ever read the book "85 Charing Cross Road"? It was made into a movie and I loved both the book and the movie.

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    1. I dearly loved the movie, but couldn't read the book at all. Her attitude and language didn't appeal to me.
      I have read it, and have seen the movie. Love them both. You moved it up one address. :<)

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  7. This sounds like a delightful read, Nan! Julia Child had such a charming wit and it manages to shine through in her writing, too. I must pick this up soon.

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  8. I think I'd enjoy reading this although Julia Child is much more famous in the US than she is here in the UK. I went to see the film Julie and Julia when I was last in NH and that was my first real introduction to Julia although I'd come across her in a vague sort of way - I think there was a TV series a few years ago? This sounds like a nice book for summer reading - a bit here and a bit there. I enjoy books of letters as I'm one of the few people I know who still actually writes them.

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    1. She was on public television way back in the late 60s, and made history. More info here. A strong and delightful personality.
      Isn't it interesting how some things travel from one country to another while others don't. For example, there are two series which have never made it over here- Emmerdale and Heartbeat. And occasionally on British bloggers' blogs I read of people I've not heard of, and I go off to explore and often buy their work. Patrick Leigh Fermor, and the River Cottage Books are a couple that come to mind immediately.

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  9. Nan, Thanks for posting this letter. I love it and the one single knife I own as a result of it. I have always marveled at the friendship between Avis DeVoto and Julia Child. Now I want to read As Always, Julia, but not sure I could do it a little at a time - my curiosity would get in the way.

    I will be curious, however, to hear how you decide to read it and what you think of As Always, Julia.

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    1. I will quietly say that I like my stainless steel knife. :<) Though I don't have to cut meat with it, just veg. so maybe that makes the difference.

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  10. What fun it would be to read these letters day by day, or date by date. I'm afraid I would start out with good intentions then my greedy, impatient self would arrive and I'd gobble them up in a sitting or two.

    In reading the comments you already have, I would agree that blogging is rather like letter writing with a modern twist. I can imagine Julia and Avis emailing each other.

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    1. And really, I have kept many, many more emails than letters. It is so easy to do so, with no clutter in the house, or mice getting into them. :<)

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  11. I do want to read this book, and you’ve given me a wonderful idea as to how to go about it. One letter at a time, on the day they were written :)

    I too have often thought of blogging as the modern day equivalent to the letter writing so prevalent in earlier times.

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    1. That's a fun thought, Becca! I think there are big spaces between some of them but I'm not positive.
      I think blogging is really more like it than even emails because often blog posts are more personal, more like letters. Usually a lot of thought goes into them.

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  12. I read the first 60 pages in January, but set the book aside and have not returned to it. Not because I didn't care for it, but because other books were calling for my attention. I want to write up a little report for my January reading of this book and then get back to it. I love the exchanges between Julia and Avis! Julia was quite funny! This is such a wonderful book.

    Thanks for the link-love. :)

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    1. Great minds! :<) I didn't go back after that day in March. I just couldn't commit to reading it just now. I shall read it and when I do it will be all at one time rather than in segments. I've realized that other than my Gladys and Rachel project I like to read a book all at once.

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.