I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of a fantastic new book of letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, the friend and editor who was responsible for shepherding Mastering the Art of French Cooking to a publisher. The two women met when Julia (in what I like to think of as a very Julia moment) read an article by DeVoto’s husband in Harper’s about, of all things, kitchen knives. She sent one over to him from Paris, with a fan note, Avis replied, and a lifelong friendship and professional collaboration was born. The book, As Always, Julia, will be published in December (pre-order! writers and publishers love it when you pre-order!), but here’s a little taste from a 1953 Julia letter which makes it clear that Julia and Avis could have gone in a whole different direction from book publishing. (They were also mailing each other produce, specifically shallots, which Avis had to special order in Cambridge, MA.)
Have just been re-reading your last, about shallots, etc. That is just too bad, and complicates things. How about us going into the business, the DeVoto/Child Shallot Packing Co. Inc, which could include Mirepoix, meat glaze, herb puree, shellfish butter, detective stories, photos and paintings. Amen. History–a chemical factory & cooking school. Just a small cozy establishment, built on the un-American principle of not trying to make money, just not losing on it.