"Black news on the cookbook front ... The answer is NO, Neg, Non, Nein ... too expensive to print, no prospects of a mass audience."---Julia Child to Avis Devoto, November 1959
In Print for the First Time, the riveting correspondence between Julia Child and her "pen pal" and literary mentor, Avis DeVoto, traces the blossoming of a unique friendship (memorably introduced in the film Julie & Julia) and the turbulent birth of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Frank, funny, exuberant, and occasionally agonized, these letters reveal the private voice of the woman the whole world calls by her first name.
The correspondence begins almost by chance in 1952, when Julia, a neophyte trying to navigate the American publishing world from Paris, writes to the journalist Bernard DeVoto after his column in Harper's on American knives. Avis answers for her husband, and soon the two women are trading both culinary and personal confidences on everything from the political strife between the Democrats and Republicans to Kinsey's research on sexuality. We meet Julia in France, where she has just inaugurated "Mrs. Child's Cooking School, Paris Branch" and is working with her future coauthors Simca Beck and Louisette Bertholle. Julia confides to Avis that the three are working on a cookbook that "I immodestly believe could be a classic" and forwards her some "TOP SECRET" recipes for her opinion. Before long, Avis has steered the book to Houghton Mifflin and become Julia's unofficial editor.
As the scourge of McCarthyism sweeps the United States, Julia and her husband, Paul, a member of the Foreign Service, move first to Marseilles, then to Bonn, and finally to Oslo. We see Julia "gnawed by doubts" after the eventual rejection of her book ("HELL AND DAMNATION, why did we decide to do this anyway?"), witness her joy when Avis manages to get the manuscript into the hands of a talented young editor at Knopf named Judith Jones, and watch the ensuing battles among Jul...
Culinary historian, cookbook author, and biographer JOAN REARDON is the author of M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters; M.F.K. Fisher Among the Pots and Pans; Poet of the Appetites: The Lives and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher; and Oysters: A Culinary Celebration. Reardon, who has a Ph.D. in English literature, won an International Association of Culinary Professionals Award for Literary Food Writing, publishes and edits a quarterly newsletter for Les Dames d'Escoffier Chicago, and serves on the advisory board of Gastronomica magazine.
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