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Reading Group: My Life in France

Spring 2018

Spring 2018 Schedule

Book Preview and French Cuisine
Feb. 12 | 7–9 p.m.
Qualia Room in TTU Foreign Languages Bldg 

Book Discussion: Part I, Intro–Chapter 4
Feb. 19 | 7–9 p.m.
University Library Room 309

Book Discussion: Part II, Chapter 5–end
Feb. 26 | 7–9 p.m.
University Library Room 309

Visitor parking on TTU campus

Speaker Bios

Feb. 12
Mike Lemon is a doctoral candidate in the English Department. While his research primarily focuses on comparing regional American literatures, he finds time to compare regional varieties of barbeque and pies. He has taught introduction to non-fiction courses on food writing, and has started a digital archive for community cookbooks of the South Plains. His presentation discusses food writing's multiple non-fiction genres before suggesting ways to read Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme's co-authored memoir, My Life in France.

Feb. 19
Dr. Benjamin Poole is Lecturer in History at Texas Tech University, where he teaches about the history of food, nationalism, race, and identity in modern Europe. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is currently working on a book exploring the relationship between representations of food and debates about national identity in late-20th-century France, using a range of sources including cookbooks, television shows, magazines, news articles, and movies. Dr. Poole lived in Paris for several years, where he gained a great appreciation for French history, culture, and cuisine.

Carole Edwards is an Associate Professor in French and Francophone Studies at Texas Tech University. Her research interests include North African, Sub-Saharan and Caribbean Francophone literature. She published a monograph on Francophone women dramatists (L’Harmattan 2008) and a volume on Sacrifice (Rodopi 2014). She has also published articles ranging from literature, history to cultural studies (women in French Studies, Routledge, Nouvelles Etudes Francophones, French Review etc). She is currently working on a monograph on French writer Laurent Gaudé. Her current projects also include the ABCs of French culture with co-author Grace Stockton and a volume on The figure of the loser in French film and literature.

Feb. 26
Dr. Andrea Jonsson completed her PhD in French in 2014 at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research in Contemporary French Literature and Culture explores sound and poetics in the play between textuality and orality. She examines how voice mediates, communicates, and performs in performance poetry, music, and theatre, with more recent analyses of how sound and voice (narrative and diegetic) are portrayed and alluded to in texts, such as in novels and short stories. Her book project, with colleague Heather Warren-Crow (TTU) called Nymphology, is meant as a presentation of applications of Girlhood theory, and investigates performative responses to the anonymous Franco-Italian Post-Situationist group, Tiqqun’s Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl (1999). Dr. Jonsson is currently a Humanities Center “Food and…” Colloquium Fellow.

Map of Julia Child's Paris

Map of Paris with Julia's sites by the Radcliffe Institute. Click for a larger version.

The joy and persistence with which Julia Child undertakes every challenge—moving across the world, learning French, enrolling in the Cordon Bleu culinary school, practicing cooking techniques, making new friends and writing Mastering the Art of French Cookingwill motivate you in the kitchen and in life. Join our reading group for a discussion of this cheery and inspiring memoir. 

About the book

Hillbilly Elegy reading group

Julia Child née McWilliams was born into a well-to-do family in California. So well-to-do in fact, that the family’s meals were prepared by a series of cooks. Needless to say Julia did not learn to cook at home. As My Life in France details, with equal parts humor and forthrightness, Julia came to cooking late in life. She moved to France with her husband right after World War II, and with her husband Paul’s encouragement, she began to cook French-style. She took cooking lessons, surrounded herself with people who liked good cooking, and made a point to meet most of the best chefs in France.  She was soon giving French cooking lessons in her own kitchen and writing, with two other women, her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961).

Child, with Alex Prud’homme, her grandnephew, collaborated on My Life in France. It is written in an interesting and casual style that is a delight to read. It is filled with French words and phrases, which make reading it much more interesting and entertaining. But My Life in France is more than Julia’s trial, tribulations, and final triumph in learning French cooking, but it is also a window into France, the French culture, and especially the role good food and wine play in French life.

But be warned, this book will make you hungry!  



This Reading Group is sponsored in part by the Humanities Center at Texas Tech, Dorothy Chansky, Director. The 2017–2018 theme is "Food and..."

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About Julia Child

Julia Child portrait by ©Lynn Gilbert, 1978
Julia Child portrait by Lynn Gilbert, 1978.

About the author, from My Life in France:

Julia Child was born in Pasadena, California. She graduated from Smith College and worked for the OSS during World War II; afterward she lived in Paris, studied at the Cordon Bleu, and taught cooking with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, with whom she wrote the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). In 1963, Boston’s WGBH launched The French Chef television series, which made Julia Child a national celebrity, earning her the Peabody Award in 1965 and an Emmy in 1966. Several public television shows and numerous cookbooks followed. She died in 2004.

This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook—try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” - Julia Child (My Life in France, p. 328)

Additional Reading

Books available at the Texas Tech University or Lubbock Public Library

Beck, Simone, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child. Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Knopf, 1961.

Child, Julia. The French Chef Cookbook. Bantam Books, 1968.

Child, Julia, Brian Leatart, and Jim Scherer. The Way to Cook. Knopf, 1989.

Conant, Jennet. A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS. Simon & Schuster, 2011.

Fitch, Noel R. Appetite for life : the biography of Julia Child. Anchor Books, 2012.

Guiliano, Mireille. French Women Don't Get Fat. Vintage, 2013.

Hartland, Jessie. Bon Appetit!: The Delicious Life of Julia Child. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012.

Lebovitz, David. My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories. Ten Speed Press, 2014.

Maclear, Kyo and Julie Morstad. Julia, Child. Tundra Books, 2014.

Marranca, Bonnie. A Slice of Life: Contemporary Writers on Food. Overlook Duckworth, 2003.

Reich, Susanna, and Amy J. Bates. Minette's Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Spitz, Bob. Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child. Vintage Books, 2013.

Spring, Justin. Gourmands' Way: Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2018.

Online Resources