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. Julia Child’s story, however, is more than the tale of a talented woman and her sumptuous craft. It is also a saga of America’s coming of age and growing sophistication, from the Depression Era to the turbulent sixties and the excesses of the eighties to the greening of the American kitchen. Julia had an effect on and was equally affected by the baby boom, the sexual revolution, and the start of the women’s liberation movement.
On the centenary of her birth, Julia finally gets the biography she richly deserves. An in-depth, intimate narrative, full of fresh information and insights, Dearie is an entertaining, all-out adventure story of one of our most fascinating and beloved figures.
About Bob Spitz
Bob Spitz is the award-winning author of The Beatles, a New York Times best seller, as well as seven other nonfiction books and a screenplay. He has represented Bruce Springsteen and Elton John in several capacities. His articles appear regularly in magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times Magazine; The Washington Post; Rolling Stone; and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spitz (The Saucier’s Apprentice: One Long Strange Trip through the Great Cooking Schools of Europe, 2008, etc.) describes the “irrepressible reality” of Child, who became a TV superstar, effectively launching “public television into the spotlight, big-time.” In his view, the 1961 publication of her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, came at just the right time. Americans were tired of the preceding “era of dreary button-down conformity,” and they were ready for a gastronomic revolution. Frustrated housewives reading Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique welcomed the larger-than-life personality and showmanship of this tall, outspoken woman as she demonstrated the intricacies of French recipes with what appeared to be blithe disregard when things went wrong. Child reveled in her celebrity status, but this was only one aspect of her complex personality. Like most women of her generation born in traditional upper-middle-class homes, she was not expected to have an independent career. A wartime stint in the OSS was liberating. Not only did she hold a highly responsible job, but she met and married career diplomat Paul Child, moving with him to France. Popular accounts of her life, including the book and film Julie and Julia, describe her enchantment with French haute cuisine and her determination to master the skills of a top chef. Spitz captures another side of her complex personality: her fierce diligence in mastering the science as well as the art of cooking through detailed experimentation and her concern to translate the preparation of complex French recipes for readers in America—an attention to detail that carried over to her TV programs. -Kirkus Reviews
“Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child” by Bob Spitz
The Washington Post Book Review – September 7, 2012 (Excerpt)
As much as they devoured her boeuf bourguignon, Julia Child’s legions of spatula-wielding fans could hardly restrain their appetites for the woman herself. The phenomenon began more than 50 years ago with the publication of her first ground-breaking book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” and reached a fever pitch when, in 1963, Child took her boisterous talents to the fledgling medium of public television.
The adoration continued for decades after her debut. She has inspired books, blogs, blogs about her books and a movie about a blog about her book. Now, those with a hunger for all things Julia have a substantial new biography by Bob Spitz to sink their teeth into. “Dearie” clocks in at 500-plus pages, a length befitting the 6-foot-3 outsize personality that threatens to burst from between the covers.
Fans raised on PBS reruns of the matronly Child tooling around her Cambridge, Mass., kitchen may not recognize the young firebrand Spitz introduces in the early chapters of his sweeping narrative. We learn about her propensity for throwing mud pies at cars as a child before graduating to boarding school and on-the-sly martinis. Later, at Smith College, Spitz drily observes, “Julia minored in partying.” [Read the full article...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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