Author of the forthcoming What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories (Summer 2017)
With a swooping voice, an irrepressible sense of humor, and a passion for good food, Julia Child ushered in the nation’s culinary renaissance. In Julia Child, award-winning food writer Laura Shapiro tells the story of Child’s unlikely career path, from California party girl to coolheaded chief clerk in a World War II spy station to bewildered amateur cook and finally to the Cordon Bleu in Paris, the school that inspired her calling. A food lover who was quintessentially American, right down to her little-known recipe for classic tuna fish casserole, Shapiro’s Julia Child personifies her own most famous lesson: that learning how to cook means learning how to live.
Shapiro's biography of Julia Child one of America's most beloved personalities is a short but comprehensive book, and the newest in the Penguin Lives series. Born Julia McWilliams in Pasadena, Calif., in 1912, Child attended college and worked for the OSS in Asia during WWII, where she met her future husband. After marrying, they moved to Paris, which led her to cooking classes at the Cordon Bleu. Child had an appetite for learning as well as eating, one that soon developed into a desire to pass on the knowledge and skills the love she was acquiring. And in her late 30s, she found her calling. With two women who later coauthored her first book, she started her own cooking school; her class notes led to the cookbook, which eventually led to the television show. Her husband provided steady support, and Child learned of the value of trial and error and an ability to laugh at her mistakes. She was also patient: the cookbook was nearly a decade from conception to publication and the television show started equally shakily. In this wonderful short bio, Shapiro doesn't skimp on less-flattering aspects of her subject's life and personality (Child found homosexuality to be "a rude disruption in the natural order of things").