There are some people in this world that we never get a chance to meet and yet still feel as though we know them intimately. Before I delved into Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz I already knew several things about Julia. I knew that she was an intelligence agent in World War II. I knew that she was the only good part of that Julie and Julia movie. And, of course, I knew that she taught America how to cook. If ever I wanted to know everything else about this cultural icon, Bob Spitz was the one to ask.
Dearie is full of amazing and intriguing facts about the life of Julia Child. She grew up the daughter of extreme privilege in Pasadena at the time when it was the richest city in the country. A daughter of old and new America (her mother could trace her lineage back to the Mayflower; her father was the product of the gold rush) she never knew what it meant to worry about one’s finances. Growing up, she turned down a newspaper heir’s multiple proposals and went to college instead because she believed in love. She wrote copy for advertisers in New York and Los Angeles after college and dreamed of writing the Next Great American Novel. Until she took lessons in Paris she was a terrible, terrible cook.
Spitz’s account does not shy away from the controversies in Julia’s life, from her unapologetic support of Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose to her fervent championship of women in the professional kitchen. He details how she unflinchingly threw away business (and personal) relationships years if not decades old in the pursuit of a higher paycheck later in her career. The book is deceptively dense. It took me a ridiculously long time to finish, and I felt like I was “almost done” for a couple hundred pages. Spitz chronicles Julia’s life in ridiculous detail–I did not need to know as much about her sex life as I now do! But my time never felt wasted. The narrative moves along at a good pace despite the length of the book and it stays interesting, discussing the fascinating changes in the food world alongside–and often due to–Julia’s adventures.
TL;DR: Dearie is a fascinating and engaging book for anyone interested in Julia Child, the history of public television or just food in general. I recommend it to fans of biographies as well. Just make sure you have some time set aside to read it!