PTPI Blog


Discussion Questions for My Life in France – Food as Symbol

July 30th, 2015

Questions answered by Matthew Hughes, Program Coordinator

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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.

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or PTPI’s Facebook Page. #globalbookclub

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.


Discussion Questions for My Life in France – Bridging Cultures

July 23rd, 2015

Questions answered by Matthew Hughes, Program Coordinator

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There’s no question that Julia Child falls in love with France at once. The descriptions she offers of her first weeks in Paris are hearty and romantic. She and her husband, Paul, are in their element, exploring the rich culinary and arts scene of the Île-de-France with gusto, savoring moments that take them outside their cultural comfort zones, and cherishing opportunities to befriend expats and locals alike.

Understandably, Julia is unable to keep her joy to herself. Along with two French friends, she endeavors to open the world of French cookery to the masses and, somehow, to demystify the French kitchen “for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets, waistlines, time schedules, children’s meals, the parent-chauffeur-den mother syndrome or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat.”

Julia’s joie de vivre is checked when she finds just how many challenges there will be in carrying prized traditional French recipes across the Atlantic. Publishers do not expect that American cooks, at the time bent on convenience and speed in food preparation, will be enticed by the encyclopedic and exacting recipes Julia relishes. Julia labors to find acceptable American substitutes for ingredients that are unmistakably French and to illustrate professional cooking methods that amateurs can mimic at home. She remains determined despite her collaborators’ warnings that any adjustments to the recipe to make them feasible in North America will mar their authenticity.

Thousands of recipes and numerous television series later, it is clear that Julia Child bridged two cultures. No matter whether her recipes precisely replicate French cooking, she was able to pull back the curtain on a central aspect of a vibrant culture for Americans in a way no one before her had done.

What challenges have you experienced when trying to make one culture accessible to another? Why were you ultimately successful, or what lessons did you learn that you will apply in the future?

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or PTPI’s Facebook Page. #globalbookclub

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.


Discussion Questions for My Life in France

July 16th, 2015

 

 Questions prepared  by Matthew Hughes, Program Coordinator

  1. Julia Child describes her first meal in France as a “morsel of perfection” (p. 18), and, years later, she realizes it was an “epiphany” (p. 333). Is there a meal from your first experience in another country or culture that opened you to new experiences in an unexpected way?
  2. When Julia and her husband first moved to France, travel and communication were slower and more deliberate than they are today. What sort of challenges does international distance pose for Julia’s work and relationships?
  3. How would Julia’s experience have been different if her husband had not been a government employee? Do you think she would have found the same love of food and culture in another way?
  4. How is Julia’s way of learning about France and French culture different from the approach many tourists use? What lessons can we take away from this approach?
  5. Julia and Paul lived in France at a time when many Americans were skeptical of outside influences. At which groups do you see such skepticism aimed today? What efforts are being made to dispel misunderstandings around these groups?
  6. By the end of her life, Julia had made her home in numerous countries. What was it about France that spoke so clearly to Julia and drew her back so frequently? Do you have such a place?
  7. At several points in the book, Julia finds it difficult to share the depth of her experience with others who have not had the same experience. When you travel or have cultural interactions, how do you share your experience in a way that others can find meaningful, too?
  8. Have you ever had a project that resembles Julia’s—one that takes years to complete and has its share of setbacks and detours along the way? What approach did you use to stay focused and see it through?
  9. Besides cuisine, what mode of cultural expression (music, art, dance, clothing, etc.) captivates you when you encounter another culture? Why?
  10. What do you think was Julia’s most significant realization about France during the course of her time there? About the U.S.?

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or PTPI’s Facebook Page. #globalbookclub

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.