Rude article about Julia Child: "Do Not Buy her Book"

Don’t Buy Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

That’s just rude.

Lady, that sounds like a personal problem. You shouldn’t bash a giant of the art just because you still suck at your job after 26 years. If someone wants to try out some difficult but rewarding recipes, let them try. They might discover a passion they never knew they had. And who over the age of 3 can’t identify a whisk?

And then you go on, with hardly any contextual support at all, to list several books and authors that would be better for people looking for “that old French magic,” complete with Amazon links. Are those referrer links? I can’t tell.

Yes it is. That is exactly what it’s meant to do. That’s what the whole article is about. If you want to write a critical, even negative article, fine. But coming right out and telling people, in huge letters right in the title, NOT to buy a book just because YOU think the recipes are too hard, well, that’s over the line. That doesn’t belong in a reputable publication.

The whole article reads like it was written by a jealous coulda-shoulda-woulda-never-has-been.

The author is pathetic. I have two of Julia’s books. I am, at best, dilettante in the kitchen. My yuppie stainless steel fridge has both Del Taco leftovers AND a collection of artisan cheeses, shallots, random mushrooms, and cream.

I cook fancy every other week if I can. I regularly purge cookbooks, yet I always keep the Julia Child pieces BECAUSE they are fantastic sources. I am not a trained chef, a restaurateur, or any other classification. I don’t tired reading what it takes to make a great dish - I get inspired. Might I cheat with boxed stock if I am in a hurry? Absolutely. However, I will also later make homemade stock when I have the time.

Bah humbug (and I am finally going to see the movie this weekend).

I’m going to move this from The BBQ Pit to Cafe Society. If the Cafe Society moderators don’t want it, they are free to return it to the Pit.

Pit Moderator

I happen to know from personal experience that a novice cook is not going to be too intimidated to try the recipes. As a matter of fact, the first recipe I made from scratch was the beef bourgignon.

I learned to cook from Julia Child, and one of the major lessons was that whatever you like is the right way to make it. And that you learn the recipe well enough that you can modify it.

It certainly is.


Really, Mastering the Art of French Cooking has complicated recipes? I already knew that. Don’t own it, but might get a copy if I feel up to some challenges. In fact, I might get a copy just to spite Ms Schrambling.

She’s written one (1) cookbook: Squash: A Country Garden Cookbook. Currently out of print.

You’ve pretty much described the majority of Slate’s content.

Did she really favourably compare The Betty Crocker Cookbook with Mastering the Art of French Cooking?


I can admit that (in a roundabout way) the Nora Ephron movie got me to pick up (the 1980s revision of) Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I read a recent article in Vanity Fair about Julia Child, and decided that I depend too heavily on Italian and Indian in the kitchen.

I don’t find the recipes particularly daunting, and I have always had difficulty with complicated meals that require precise timing. Personally, I like the attention to detail in the way that everything is presented. I would think that it would be *perfect *for a hypothetical newb, precisely because of the abundant exposition.

You need three qualities in order to write a good cookbook: knowledge, enthusiasm, and an ability to communicate. The authors of Mastering the Art of French Cooking have these qualities in spades. I can’t imagine why anyone would give these books a bad recommendation.

Isn’t that sort of the point of a book review?

No. And it’s not a book review anyway.

At a wild guess, I’m thinking that if your recipe covers less than a page, you’re probably not truly getting classical French cuisine down all that well. Yes, classical French recipes are complicated and detail intensive, but good cooking is like anything else–the devil’s in the details.

Ironically, Child was told not to write her cookbook because no one wanted to put that much effort into cooking – it was all quick and ready to eat. Complicated recipes were extinct. This was in the late 1950s.

I am equally confused by both of these sentences.

I don’t think it’s really a review. It’s mostly a complaint about how Child’s cookbook has shot up the charts after the movie release, and how lazy Americans (her included) don’t have the attention span to cook recipes that take up more than one page, so just don’t buy it or you’ll leave it sit somewhere and you should take this professional cook’s word for it. ‘Buy something else, not Julia, you slacker heathens.’

I’m really not insulted by her review. And it is a review. She’s entitled to her opinion that no one’s going to bother picking up the book and it will sit on the shelf gathering dust.
Thing is, though, her entire premise is wrong. This whole “fad” of buying Julia Child’s book came from Julie and Julia, which is about a woman who got bored and did exactly what the Slate author is claiming no one else who buys her book will do.

It is clearly not a book review. Book reviews tend to be current and focus on the content of the book. It’s a rant about a 50-year-old book by a jealous never-has-been.

This. I know I’m not supposed to say “this” only, but I agree with Enderw24 completely.

Occasionally I like to cook a dish from scratch, just to see if I can. I would be willing to do this with something from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Whether others want to make the effort or not is none of my concern, and it shouldn’t be Ms. Schrambling’s either.

IMO, her use of the word “consort” to describe her partner is a bit precious. What is she, a princess?

I honestly don’t see the difference between this and a book review. It is current - the recent movie about Julia Child has kindled a lot of interest in her books, so she’s a current topic right now. She seems to be talking about the content of the books as far as I can tell. Her point, after all, seems to be that the contents of the book are too complicated for the average, amateur chef. It may also be a rant by a “jealous never-has-been,” but that’s not incompatible with it being a book review. It may not be a good book review, but it seems pretty clearly to be a book review none-the-less. And what purpose does a book review serve, but to tell the reader whether or not they should buy the book?

Sheer idiocy.

I’ve been an amateur cook most of my life. I grew up helping my mom in the kitchen and learning the basics from her.

When I moved out on my own, I bought a few basic cookbooks, such as Betty Crocker and was underwhelmed with what they had to offer.

As I expanded my horizons, I eventually picked up Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and it immediately became the most used cookbook in my collection.

I’m more skilled in technique than most amateur cooks, and that’s almost entirely due to two things: 1. I simply love cooking and, therefore, pay close attention, and 2: Julia Child taught me an outstanding foundation that has allowed me to move onto more complicated and advanced dishes.

I still read that book just for pleasure because it so well-written and exquisitely detailed. Squash Girl really needs to untwist her undies.

That’s about 90% of Slate’s content. “X is now popular or the conventional wisdom, so we’ll write an article about how X is wrong.” Mastering the Art of French Cooking makes the best seller list? Write an article slamming it.

I enjoy Slate from time to time, but their adherence to the formula is almost comedic. 9 times out of 10 you can read the NYT and predict exactly what will be on Slate’s front page. Just look for any articles about trends or consensus, and Slate will have an article proclaiming the opposite to be true.

By the way, MtAoFC is an awesome book, and should be on everyone’s shelf.

holy shit, i LOVE that books. She explains how to do things so people who had no idea about french cooking could actually manage to make the dish. The book was written in a time when the most exotic spicing was sprinkling paprika on a baked potato …