I love love love the new Beauty and the Beast movie. One of the best parts, of course, is the Beast’s library, so I wrote “Belle Would Be Enchanted by These 10 Lovely Libraries in Hotels” for USA Today 10Best.Read All Entries
my week of living like julia child
Julia Child and I have so much in common, we could be soul sisters – if you disregard the fact that I don’t cook.
This revelation was as surprising to me as it probably is to you, but I felt such a kinship to her in chapter 9 of Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life that I almost felt like I should be whipping up a Tarte Tatin. (No surprise that I didn’t.)
Julia Child Rules, which comes out next week, is the latest book in my friend Karen Karbo’s “Kick Ass Women” series. To celebrate its launch, she asked if I, a Kick Ass Blogger (ha ha ha!), would pick one of the nine rules in the book and “live like Julia” for a week.
At first, I was a little wary because, as you may know, my kids used to ask what the food man was bringing for dinner when we lived in Manhattan. I’ve used my dishwasher as a file cabinet and been on a first-name basis with the people behind the counters of my local take-out places. You would never mention me in the same breath as Julia Child.
But, as I discovered reading chapter 9, well, maybe you would.
Although I was intrigued by rules like “Live with abandon” and “Learn to be amused,” I decided to go with chapter 9, “Make the world your oyster (stew),” since that’s exactly my philosophy about travel – minus the stew, of course.
As it turns out, I couldn’t have picked a more appropriate chapter.
Because I was heading off to the TMS Family Travel conference last week, it seemed like the perfect time to embrace that rule and try to live like Julia.
Now, this was a conference I had never attended before and I didn’t know anyone who was going. I was also the oldest blogger there.
I was a little nervous, so I turned to Julia because, according to the book, “No one told Julia that middle-aged women weren’t allowed to hog the spotlight, or that if they did, they could only do it if they passed as someone much younger.”
This was very empowering to me, and instead of sitting quietly in the background, I volunteered to go on stage for a magic trick and I conducted an interview on video, two activities which are way outside my comfort zone.
And, in an attempt to surpass Julia as “the Best Middle-Aged Woman Ever,” I went one step further.
I had to miss the biggest sightseeing day of the conference in order to get to the Social Good Summit in New York and I was concerned that they would all forget about me and not invite me to the next one because I was leaving early. I loved this conference and couldn’t let this happen.
I jokingly (but not really) told our amazing host, Michelle Blackley of the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation, that I would print out a photo of myself that she could bring along with the group and Tweet some pictures so it would be like I was there with them. She thought that was a great idea, and here are some of the photos which I re-Tweeted and which got a lot of exposure. Thank you, Julia, for the inspiration.
“Middle-age was the time of Julia’s life,” according to the book. Yes! This is the message I always try to get across to women. In fact, it’s why I created Midlife at the Oasis. Since turning 50, I’ve hugged koalas in Australia, studied with Martha Beck in Africa and won a couple of writing awards.
Like Julia, I am working my ass off but can’t wait to get to that “work” as soon as I wake up in the morning. I am as passionate about writing as she was about cooking. It took her 284 pounds of white flour to master Pain Francais, and it may take me 284 drafts to write my own masterpiece de resistance, but that’s okay because “It was this kind of dedication and enthusiasm that kept her grounded and optimistic about the future,” writes Karen.
I can’t think of a better way to approach midlife.
I completely relate to Karen’s observation that “Her hands have age spots, and yet Julia still thinks what she has to say has merit.” Although my children may not always agree, I’m convinced that wisdom – when you can remember it – does come with age, and you provide a great service by sharing it.
For better or worse, I also relate to the fact that “Julia spoke her mind, even when it was out-of-step with the times, even when she was wrong.”
I sort of did this with the video interview I told you about. I was interviewing the very knowledgeable Alex de L’Arbre of Ski.com and I wanted to make the conversation personal and chatty so I started talking about my daughter, the snowboarder, and how she could be an aspiring Gold Medalist like Shaun White. Really? She hasn’t been on a snowboard since she was maybe 10 years old but it sounded so natural that I got caught up in the story and just kept going. It seemed like something Julia would do.
One of my favorite lines in the chapter, and one that really resonates with me, is this one: “Of Julia’s many stellar qualities – her optimism, stamina, determination, and loyalty – living with tortured ambivalence was not one of them.”
This week, I was invited to a couple of events that would have been fun but would also have taken away time from people I don’t get to spend a lot of time with. Rather than endlessly debate what I should do, I asked myself, “What would Julia do?” I skipped the events, enjoyed my time with my friends and never looked back to stress over whether or not I had made the right decision. This was so liberating.
Julia was 54 when she was crowned Our Lady of the Ladle. I’m 54 and am not sure what title I’m pursuing. Our Lady of the Label Sticking Out of Her Shirt?
I want to use words the way Julia used butter – to add richness, depth, comfort, joy.
I may not be able to bake her Queen of Sheba cake but I can step forward to lead an amazing life just like “Julia did, wielding her eccentric personality and joie de vivre like the fright knife she waved over her head on The French Chef.”
Now, that’s one recipe I actually can follow.
Here’s why I love Julia: Check out 6:57 when she says, “If no one is watching, you can take the sides of your hands and shape it together.” Crying laughing!