“Another French Connection”

I made an interesting discovery today: Julia Child and I haunted the same neighborhood in Paris. Only she lived there some 50 years before I did.

I am reading a funny and amusing book called “Julie & Julia”, by Julie Powell, about a young New York woman (Julie – true story) who obsessively cooks every recipe in Julia Child’s famous masterpiece cookbook, “Mastering The Art of French Cooking”. Not that I am a big fan of Julia’s – it just sounds like something I would do (I am realizing more and more that my parents never figured out I am probably autistic. No, not obsessive compulsive – autistic!)

I came across a mention in the book of Julia Child’s Paris apartment at 81 rue de l’Universite, where she lived with her husband, Paul, right after WWII. This was when she learned how to cook. Like most Americans, they had a hard time pronouncing “catra-van-UH, roo de LOONEY-vair-see-TAY” so they nicknamed it “Roo de Loo”.

81? “She must have been a next-door-neighbor,” I told Vicky: “That’s either above the gas station that they turned into a boutique – across from the Romanian Embassy – or it’s above the corner outdoor cafe where I told that snotty waiter to fuck off because he didn’t like me pulling a chair up from another table so we could join Bebe & Newby at their table.”

“No,” Vicky reminded me, “our address was 191 rue de l’Universite – not 91.”

Ours was even harder to pronounce. In fact, one of the first things we mastered in French was our correct address given properly to a cabbie:
“Sont-catra-van-OHNZ, roo de LOONEY-vair-see-TAY, see-voo-PLAY.”

There! So, I’m bad with numbers – maybe that proves I’m not autistic.

OK, so Julia is still in the vicinity – or at least our old apartments are. I looked her up on Google Earth. I used to ride by it daily on my grocery shopping trips to le Grand Epicerie. In fact, for those of you who had the chance to ride on the back of the Vespa, it was near the Ministry of Defense where all of the French police would stand out in the street and suspiciously/stoically stare at you as you passed by. There was also a very pretty church on the right that had a nice little chunk of green space – a mini park with trees – in front. Reid & Nancy: I think it was not far from Lee’s apartment – only I believe she was in the 80’s on rue de Grenelle several streets over.

So Julia probably shopped the street market at rue Cler as I did. I haven’t read her book, “My Life In France” but I guess I will now. Just like I only want to see “The Bourne Identity” or “The Da Vinci Code” so I can see the Parisian street scenes.

I wonder if she got robbed by an ugly Arab like I did? Maybe she too had to walk several miles out of her way with way-over-the-weight-limit luggage to get home – due to the Tour de France running down your street? Maybe she watched Bastille Day fireworks from her window as we did? She probably even lost a smoked ham off the back of her Vespa onto the busy l’Etoile race course as I did…..

…..I guess I’ll have to read the book.

OK, so here’s the REAL Kevin Bacon connection: Before we moved to Atlanta, we were here for a few days and I called an old college buddy – Bruce Huggins – whom I hadn’t seen in almost 30 years. We met at a restaurant for lunch. Bruce had jet black hair the last time I saw him. When he came into the restaurant, he had totally gray hair. “Steve Martin!” I exclaimed with joy, hoping to throw in a little dig at the same time. (We frequently watched Saturday Night Live in college – back when it debuted – thus my Steve Martin comment…)

“Dan Ackroyd!” Bruce shot back. (I was probably 60 pounds heavier since he last saw me almost 30 years ago.) Brilliant come back. And a bigger bullet than mine….I was bummed about looking like Dan Ackroyd – I even saw the similarities myself….

Dan Ackroyd? Get the connection? Remember, he did the funny Julia Child impersonations on SNL where he would be DWC (drinking while cooking) and accidentally cut his wrists with the ten-inch chef’s knife while chopping chickens – spewing blood all over the place?

Weird, huh? [Twilight Zone guitar, please.] I bet you have goose bumps all over now, don’t you?

I hope the French government puts one of those little plaques up on the side of the building where she lived that says: “Julia Child Lived Here”. She did more for French cooking in America than anyone I can think of. Hell, she did more for COOKING PERIOD in this country. Just think, without her, we’d still be eating Pigs In A Blanket and Swanson TV Dinners!

Bon appetit mes amis,
Robert Leedy

and REMEMBER: SAVE the gizzards!

Julia Child at Roo de Loo

Julia Child at her “Roo de Loo” apartment in Paris’ 7th Arronsissement sometime in the late Forties.
It’s interesting how much this looks like the courtyard side of our old apartment. She’s probably standing
in the kitchen (the two windows) and the windows on the right are where the top floor landing and
elevator are. There are actually small apartments above hers – where people’s maids used to sleep.
Now they are typically used as inexpensive apartments for students on a budget.

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