I shouldn’t have been so surprised to learn that Julia Child was a gifted and funny writer—after all, her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking is considered to be one of the most influential cookbooks of all time and launched her culinary career into the stratosphere. But in reading her memoir, My Life in France, I was consistently struck by how elegant and entertaining the writing was.
Child co-authored the book with Alex Prud’homme, an American journalist (and her great-nephew), but her distinctive voice—clever, thoughtful, and curious—shines through on every page.
Some of the most delightful parts of My Life in France are Child’s recollections of Paris, her “spiritual homeland,” where she began her virtuosic and joyful mastery of French cuisine. If you can’t afford a trip to the City of Light right now, let this Insta-tour of some of Julia’s favorite spots—paired with her own words—whisk you away.
Disclaimer: The images used in this post do not belong to Paperback Paris, but to their accredited creators.
Les Deux Magots
“We began at the Deux Magots cafe, where we ordered café complet. Paul was amused to see that nothing had changed since his last visit, back in 1928. The seats inside were still covered with orange plush, the brass light fixture were still unpolished, and the waiters—and probably the dust balls in the corners—were the same.”
81 Rue de l’Université (Roo de Loo)
Roo de Loo . . . . #juliachild #ruedeloo #masteringtheartoffrenchcooking #parisdoors #paris #travel #traversefrance #francophiles #thisisparis #cityoflight #iloveparis #instaparis #instafrance #topparisphoto #ig_france #francophile #hello_france #parisjetaime #pariscartepostale #wonderlustparis #visitparis #travelfrance
“In the meantime, I had discovered an apartment for rent that was large, centrally located, and a bit weird. It was two floors of an old four-story hôtel particulier, at 81 Rue de l’Université. A classic Parisian building, it had a gray cement facade, a grand front door about eight feet high, a small interior courtyard, and an open-topped cage elevator.”
Le Cordon Bleu
“I had always been content to live a butterfly life of fun, with hardly a care in the world. But at the Cordon Bleu, and in the markets and restaurants of Paris, I suddenly discovered that cooking was a rich and layered and endlessly fascinating subject. The best way to describe it is to say that I fell in love with French food—the tastes, the processes, the history, the endless variations, the rigorous discipline, the creativity, the wonderful people, the equipment, the rituals.”
“My friends in the markets were fascinated by our école. The darling chicken man on la Rue Cler gave us a special price, and was most anxious to give our students a demonstration on how to choose a fine bird. The butcher felt the same way about his meats. Dehillerin, the cookware store, offered a 10 percent discount on all student purchases.”
“La Truite was a cozy place off the le Faubourg Saint-Honore, behind the American embassy. The chef was Marcel Dorin, a distinguished old-schooler, assisted by his son. They did a splendid roast chicken: suspended on a string, the bird twirled in front of a glowing electric grill; every few minutes, a waiter would give it a spin and baste it with the juices that dripped down into a pan filled with roasting potatoes and mushrooms. Oh, those were such fine, fat, full-flavored birds from Bresse—one taste, and I realized I had long ago forgotten what real chicken tasted like! But La Truite’s true glory was its sole à la normande, a poem of poached and flavored sole fillets surrounded by oysters and mussels, and napped with a wonder-sauce of wine, cream, and butter, and topped with fluted mushrooms. ‘Voluptuous’ was the world. I had never imagined that fish could be taken so seriously, or taste so heavenly.”
L’air est bon et la température clémente à Paris en ce mois de janvier. Moins de touristes = joie. ☺️🌎 . . . #paris #parisfrance #igerseurope #igersparis #leshalles #leshallesparis #travelingram #instatravel #travel #voyagevoyage #viedepigiste #corporatetraveller #travelphotography #travelblogger #france #france🇫🇷 #iphone8plus #notredamedeparis #quasimodo
“One Wednesday, Chef Bugnard took us to Les Halles in search of provisions for upcoming classes: liver, chickens, beef, vegetables, and candied violets. We made our way through a wonderful hodgepodge of buildings, each filled with food stalls and purveyors of cooking equipment. You could find virtually anything under the sun there. As we dodged around freshly killed rabbits and pig trotters, or large men unpacking crates of glistening blue-black mussels and hearty women shouting about their wonderful champignons, I avidly jotted down notes about who carried what and where they were located, worried I’d never be able to find them again in this raucous maze.”
Marché aux Puces St-Ouen
“One Sunday we went to the Marché aux Puces, the famous flea market on the outer fringes of Paris, in search of something special: a large mortar and pestle used in the preparation of those lovely, light quenelles de brochet (a labor-intensive dish made by filleting fish, grinding it up in the big mortar, forcing it through a tamis sieve, and then beating in cream over a bowl of ice). The Marché aux Puces was a vast, sprawling market where one could buy just about anything.”
“Suddenly the dining room filled with wonderfully intermixing aromas that I sort of recognized but couldn’t name. The first smell was something oniony—”shallots,” Paul identified it, “being sauteéd in fresh butter. (“What’s a shallot?” I asked, sheepishly. “You’ll see,” he said.) Then came a warm and winy fragrance from the kitchen, which was probably a delicious sauce being reduced on the stove. This was followed by a whiff of something astringent: the salad being tossed in a big ceramic bowl with lemon, wine vinegar, olive oil, and a few shakes of salt and pepper. My stomach gurgled with hunger.”
*This restaurant is in Rouen, not Paris, but it was quite literally Julia’s first taste of French cooking, so it gets a special mention.