A few days before Julia Child was born, writes Bob Spitz in this lively biography, a new newspaper column called Practical Meals for Pasadena Housewives ran a recipe that unfolds like a scene from a foodie horror movie: “Open a can of salmon early in the morning, turn it out and flake the fish …” Child’s role as an evangelist of French cuisine and savior of American households from canned-salmon pancakes is well chronicled in her memoir, My Life in France. But as Spitz weaves her story through narratives of McCarthyism, feminism, the rise of television (a medium she conquered, though her 6-ft. 3-in. frame thoroughly flummoxed her first cameraman) and the birth of the American wine industry, she emerges as not just a supremely influential cook but also a catalyst for epochal change in the way people feel about who they are and what they eat. Non-foodies will love her abiding affection for Goldfish crackers.
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