The letters exchanged between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto from 1952 to ’61, as the former was creating the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961).
During many years of research, culinary historian and biographer Reardon (M.F.K. Fisher Among the Pots and Pans, 2008, etc.) had collected most of DeVoto’s letters to Child, but it wasn’t until 2006, when the Avis DeVoto papers were unsealed after 30 years archived in a Cambridge library, that she read those written by Child. Of the more than 400 letters they mailed to each other between 1952 and ’88, Reardon has selected those that capture the first nine years of their friendship, making only minor adjustments (accents for French words, punctuation for clarity). Child’s letters were written from the myriad cities where her husband was stationed for his work in the U.S. State Department: Paris, Marseille, Washington, D.C., Oslo and elsewhere; DeVoto’s were all postmarked in Cambridge, Mass. The women’s correspondence began when Child wrote to DeVoto’s husband, journalist Bernard DeVoto, praising his Harper’s article about knives, and it was Avis, not he, who responded. Living in Paris, Child had been consumed by an obsession with French food and was teaching cooking classes and writing a book on the subject. She sent the first draft to Avis, who played a vital role in getting it published. Even before they met in person, DeVoto and Child formed a bond strong enough to qualify as “soul mate[s].” Rooted in a shared love of great food, their exchanges cover recipes, family news, all the quotidian ins and outs of their lives, emotions, enthusiasm for the book and all the many trials of finding it a publisher and seeing Julia’s endeavor brought to light in America. The letters are detailed, engaging, witty, warmhearted, and immensely honest, and the women's comfort in their friendship is evidenced by the total lack of pretense and the vast quantity of letters they shared, most of which are signed off with love.
Nothing too compelling, but this epistolary testament to a close friendship will surely appeal to Child fans.