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Discussion Questions for My Life in France - Food as Symbol

Questions answered by Matthew Hughes (Manager, Global Education Programs)

Discussion Questions for My Life in France - Food as Symbol

Julia Child approached food with care, curiosity, panache, and pluck. In her book, she demonstrates time and again that cooking and eating are multi-sensory experiences that go beyond basic sustenance. Dishes deserve exploration, are an expression of their chef, and convey symbolic meaning to their consumers. They are meant to be shared, relished, and remembered.

Throughout her compilation of stories, Julia tracks the development of her understanding of food as symbol. She considers what the American search for kitchen convenience says about the American attitude toward food while celebrating the elaboration of delicacies by French masters. Instead of dismissing American food, she aims to package French techniques and recipes in a way that will appeal to and meet the culinary desires of Americans, ultimately getting to the core of what food is about for her.

Julia is aware that circumstances change over time, but the value of a meal endures. At one point, she travels the French countryside with a camera crew to film the work of acclaimed experts before, she fears, machines make artisan methods obsolete. By the end of the book, a supermarket has become the preferred food outlet in the south of France, leaving local specialists to find other work. As someone who comes to embrace the electric mixer and other modern appliances, Julia in no way rejects progress. But I imagine she would say that the heart and soul of food should stay intact, no matter the tools and steps used to prepare it.

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The opinions expressed by PTPI staff and other book club members are entirely their own and are not necessarily the views of PTPI or its Officers, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.

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