Q&A With Bob Spitz, Author of Julia Child Biography Dearie, Visits Left Bank Books May 7 -- Win A Copy Today! [CONTEST] [Updated]
Watch Julia Child prepare crêpe Suzette above.
You traveled with Julia for a couple of weeks in 1992 on assignment for a magazine and in the book admit to developing a bit of a crush on her during that time. What was it actually like to meet and travel with her?
It was an amazing case of serendipity for me. I was in Italy writing magazine articles for about six different American magazines when a friend from the Italian Trade Commission called me and said, "Would you mind being an escort for an older woman?" and I said, "Lady, I don't do that kind of work," and she said, "It's Julia Child," and I said, "I'll be right over." Julia was in her early 80s, her legs were giving out, and she needed a strong arm to hold onto as she traveled around Sicily trying to gauge what Sicilian food is like. That's what she was there for. I had a month with her doing nothing but eating three meals a day and talking to her about her life. It was a propitious time because she was at the point in her life where she was ready to reflect on her lasting legacy and what she had left here and what she had created and just how important that was. She wanted to go back and examine her life. For me, for anyone who writes historical nonfiction, or biography, that was a fascinating experience.
What was Julia Child's appraisal of Italian food during your travels with her?
I had great food, although I will confess that Julia Child did not like Italian food whatsoever. She was bored by it. Every time a dish would come, she would say, "Oh no," because it was the same sauce every night. It was tomatoes, onion, garlic and olive oil, and Julia was a woman who thought sauce making was both a science and an art form. She was in love with all the Escoffier sauces, and there were hundreds of them, which she had studied and perfected, and here was the same sauce night after night. She was completely bored with Italian food.
You've been touring the country in support of Dearie since August 2012. What have your experiences been touring for the book, meeting people and the reaction?
Here's what I've found: Julia Child's name alone draws audiences everywhere. What I've found is that she's considered one of the most beloved personalities that we've had. Audiences come out everywhere just to hear about her, hear what she was really like and actually, really they come out to tell me their own stories. So many people met Julia at book signings, demonstrations, at her campaigns for Planned Parenthood. Mainly they sat at their mother's arm while their mother wrote down recipes from Julia's shows on TV, and transformed their families. Everybody feels connected to her in some way. That for an author is a remarkable experience -- meeting people who not only want to hear about Julia from my perspective, but tell me their personal stories as well. It's been very gratifying.
What can we expect when you stop in St. Louis at Left Bank Books?
More Julia. I'm going to talk about her life and tell a lot of the stories that weren't in the book; things that were either too funny or drawn from questions people ask me. I give them an overview of Julia's life and try to put into perspective just how much she changed our culture. That to me is the most important thing. All the books that I write are about people who've done two things: No. 1, they're beloved, and No. 2, they've changed the culture. Before this I wrote about the Beatles, and that was a big best-seller. I realized right away all the parallels between the Beatles story and Julia's story. At times I felt like I was writing the same book. They were both subjects who were told that they had no right doing what they wanted to do, they totally believed in themselves against all odds, they suffered rejection early but never gave up, they worked extraordinary long hours perfecting their craft. They're beloved and they've changed the culture. Before the Beatles I did Bob Dylan, and my next book is on President Reagan -- and he fits that mold as well. I'm going to talk a little about that as well.
Ready to win a copy of Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child? To enter to win, simply leave a response below in the comments section with a 25-word or fewer argument to the following question:
What's your favorite Julia Child recipe, and why?
A winner will be chosen by 10 a.m. on Monday, May 6, in time for pick-up for Spitz's visit to Left Bank Books the following day.
Rules: To be eligible, you must leave a valid e-mail address (or Twitter handle or Facebook profile URL) in the comment-entry field. One entry per e-mail address. Employees of Riverfront Times are not eligible.