A minor work from the titanic Julia. Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a sacred text in my house growing up, and when my children were tiny PBS kindly ran the early French Chef TV shows at an hour when they could entertain toddlers, so I was interested in the saga but its anecdotal telling does it no favors. Yes, you get her marvelously tart yet generous voice, and there’s almost enough food material, but it doesn’t really hold up.
Best moment: describing the pack of stag-hounds run by the second husband of Louisette Bertholle, one of the three original collaborators on Mastering. According to Julia, the stag hunt is unchanged from the days of the Louis, regulated on the calls of the cor de chasse trumpets (ancestors of the French horn). “There were about twenty different trumpet calls, each indicating a stage of the hunt: the dogs are circling; the stag is in the water; the scent is lost; the stag breaks from the forest; etc.”
Why, it’s ballet, only on horseback! The structure, the system, the profound formality. Also evident, of course, in French cuisine.