The reading I went to last night was great. The speakers were Alex Prud'homme (Julia Child's grand-nephew and collaborator on My Life In France) and Judith Jones, who was Julia Child's long time editor. Both started the discussion by reading excepts from their books (Jones recently wrote The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food which I’m adding this to my wishlist right now!), and Prud'homme fell into the role of interviewer to pull more stories out of Jones about Julia and the other cookbook authors she's worked with (Lidia Bastianich, Mahdur Jaffrey, and Edna Lewis among others!).
Two things that stood out for me was Jones’ recognition of the connection between food and memory (and by extension memoir), “cooking comes out of memory”; and her desire for the authors she worked with to find their own “voice” rather than just churning out a how-to kind of cookbook. She implied that she was one of the catalysts of the genre of cookbooks that marry recipes and memoir, which are exactly my favorite kind, through pulling out the stories and specific voices of her authors. She was particularly fond of cookbooks that had a fish out of water element, like Jaffrey's, where the writer has been taken out of their native culture and were learning to cook the dishes of their youth as a way to reconnect, rather than complicated tomes by accomplished chefs. I love Jaffrey's Indian Cookery for just this "we're all learning together" feel.
In an interesting aside, when talking about Edna Lewis she only referred to Scott Peacock as “a collaborator” rather than by name. I rather felt like she was in the camp that didn’t approve of their association. I know Miss Lewis’ family and previous associates had issues with him, but I remember seeing them on some morning shows back when their collaborative book came out and thinking how sweet they were together. Like Miss Lewis was the granny of his heart.