Photo: Elizabeth Hait, AOL
To fall for As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child & Avis DeVoto
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26), it doesn't matter if you know a beef bourguignon from a beef patty. It doesn't matter if you've never even lifted the cover of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking
, or, for that matter, even heard of Julia Child. For As Always, Julia
is, beyond the correspondence that helped launch one of the greatest cookbooks of our time, an intimate portrait of a deep and enduring friendship.
Little did Julia Child know, when she wrote a letter congratulating scholar/journalist Bernard DeVoto on his Harper's
story about the trouble with American knives, that she would find, in her own words, "a soul mate," in DeVoto's wife, Avis. As secretary to her husband, Avis answered Julia's letter, and from an exchange about the glories of French knives, the two (Child then living in Paris, and DeVoto in Cambridge, Mass.) rapidly progressed in letters to matters of the heart and of the kitchen, and often where the two intertwined.
Julia, of course, also found an unflagging champion for her expansive work with Simone Beck in the sophisticated, politically savvy, and intellectual Avis, with her Harvard ties and Boston literary connections and her culinary prowess. It was Avis who brought the massive project to Houghton Mifflin, and, later, when HM thought it too ungainly, to Knopf, where it found a home with the renowned editor Judith Jones, then early in her brilliant career.
Continue reading, and hear Julia and Avis, in their own words, after the jump.