As much as they devoured her boeuf bourguignon, Julia Child’s legions of spatula-wielding fans could hardly restrain their appetites for the woman herself. The phenomenon began more than 50 years ago with the publication of her first ground-breaking book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” and reached a fever pitch when, in 1963, Child took her boisterous talents to the fledgling medium of public television.
The adoration continued for decades after her debut. She has inspired books, blogs, blogs about her books and a movie about a blog about her book. Now, those with a hunger for all things Julia have a substantial new biography by Bob Spitz to sink their teeth into. “Dearie” clocks in at 500-plus pages, a length befitting the 6-foot-3 outsize personality that threatens to burst from between the covers.
Fans raised on PBS reruns of the matronly Child tooling around her Cambridge, Mass., kitchen may not recognize the young firebrand Spitz introduces in the early chapters of his sweeping narrative. We learn about her propensity for throwing mud pies at cars as a child before graduating to boarding school and on-the-sly martinis. Later, at Smith College, Spitz drily observes, “Julia minored in partying.”