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The Voracious Reader: Omnivore Books' Pick Of The Week

Celia Sack, owner of Omnivore Books on Food—San Francisco's only food book store, specializing in both new and antiquarian cookbooks—knows what's cooking. Find the best of the latest food writing and cookbooks on Bits + Bites every other Monday.

Until this August, the most common questions I fielded in my shop were, "Do you cook?" and "What's your favorite cookbook?" My customers were open to suggestions, happy to be swayed this way and that, to be eased into a book they'd never heard of. Now, times have changed. I only get one question. "Where's Julia?" My Life in France. Julie and Julia. Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And the lesser known volumes: The French Chef, Julia Child and Company, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. It's fantastic to see Julia's resurgence in popularity since the movie Julie & Julia came out, and to meet people excited about learning about her, learning from her, and cooking with her.

Amidst all the renewed interest in Ms. Child, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture has reissued its Summer 2005 Julia Child tribute issue. It is a tour de force, filled with photographs of Child young and old, including many unfamiliar images. There are paeans to Child from Jacques Pepin, Judith Jones, and Sara Moulton, among others. Historical perspectives by Laura Shapiro, Joan Reardon, and Darra Goldstein grace the pages, along with memories contributed by Jill Norman, Nach Waxman (Kitchen Arts and Letters), Jessica Battilana (7x7 Magazine!), and Anne Willan.

Of Child, Pepin says, "She was direct, tough, gentle, competitive, generous, opinionated, optimistic, funny, serious, informative, demanding, frustrating, eloquent, and vibrant and—more than anything—full of life, always fun, and living to the fullest until her last breath."In the film Julie & Julia, many of us learned for the first time about her passionate relationship with her husband, Paul. His birthday poems to Julia are among the most touching aspects of the Gastronomica issue. Here is his "Birthday, 1945", written while they were stationed in China together at the end of World War II:

"How like autumn's warmth is Julia's face,
So filled with nature's bounty, nature's worth,
And how like summer's heat is her embrace
Wherein, at last, she melts my frozen earth.
Endowed, the awakened fields abound
With newly green effulgence, smiling flowers,
Then all the lovely riches of the ground
Spring up, responsive to her magic powers.
Sweet friendship, like the harvest cycle, moves
From scattered seed to final ripened grain
Which, glowing in the warmth of autumn, proves
The richness of the soil, and mankind's gain.
I cast this heaped abundance at your feet:
An offering to summer and her heat."

Gastronomica has always been an educational boon to the food world, teaching readers about scholarly subjects such as Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine or "The Low Countries and the English Agricultural Revolution." This issue stands apart, however, in it's reliance on pure emotion to discuss one of the world's favorite chefs. Even the historians and scholars can't help but show some heart when discussing Child, and this issue is a wonderful collection of all things Julia.

Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. Summer 2005 Reissue . $13. On news stands now.
Darra Goldstein, editor of Gastronomica, will be speaking at Omnivore Books on Food on Oct. 13, 5:30-7:30 p.m. FREE.