Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bon Appetit!

 This week I have been reading Backstage with Julia, a memoir by Nancy Verde Barr of her years of working with the famous television cook, Julia Child. The book contains many personal photographs and other mementos, and to my surprise I found this one.

It's a picture of one of Julia's team members, standing in a doorway in Julia's home in France. Over the door is an ominously large wooden spoon, and to the right is a large balloon whisk under a sign that warns: "Pain". I can't make out what it says underneath, but it gives one pause.

Later in the book I discovered a description of a road trip that I really have to share with you. In 1993, Nancy and Julia, along with Julia's friend John and Susy, another member of the staff, are in Colorado, traveling from the Aspen Classic to a dude ranch. John is having breathing difficulties but his doctor has given him portable oxygen for the journey.

It was a long, eight-hour-plus drive from Aspen to the ranch, and we decided to make a stop in Denver at the Tattered Cover Bookstore to buy a book on tape for the trip. We wanted something suspenseful and mysterious, and Julia and I stood looking at the possibilities. I spotted Anne Rice's name on a box of tapes entitled Exit to Eden and I picked it up.

"I just read her Interview with the Vampire and I really couldn't put it down."

"I've wanted to read her vampire story, but since you already have let's get this," she said, taking the box to the register without examining it.

We climbed back into the car with me in the driver's seat, Julia riding shotgun, and John and Susy in the back, with Susy diagonally behind me, so I could see her gesturing directions to turn left or right. We didn't want unnecessary talking to interrupt the storytelling.

I must have been concentrating especially hard on negotiating the streets out of Denver because I don't remember hearing the beginning of the tape. My first clue that it was not about anything as pedestrian as vampires was when I looked in the mirror at Susy for instructions on which way to turn. Her eyebrows were arched high in her forehead and she darted her startled eyes from me to the tape. I tuned in just in time to hear something about black leather and chains.

"What's this?" I asked, fumbling for and then ejecting the tape. "There must be a mistake. Do all the tapes say Anne Rice?"

It turns out that Rice writes explicitly erotic and wickedly pornographic stories that in book form appear under a pseudonym. On tape, they carry her name. At the time, we only knew we had something that seemed highly inappropriate to everyone but Julia.

"Well, let's listen to it anyway," she said, pushing the tape back into play position. Susy looked aghast, and I'm sure I heard John pulling extra hard on his oxygen tank. Meanwhile on the CD, two characters named Lisa and Elliot were pushing the envelope on the limits of pleasure at the Club, an exclusive, hidden resort devoted to the fulfillment of forbidden fantasies.

"What's he doing to her?" Julia asked. Was that John gasping? Susy was giggling.

"Look, Julia, we--we can listen to it, but I'm not explaining it to you." It wasn't so much that I was embarrassed; I wasn't exactly sure what kind of forbidden fantasies Lisa and Elliott were engaged in, and I wasn't sure John ever wanted to know. But Julia wanted to figure it out, so Susy and I did our best to offer commentary. John rolled down his window.

Spank that turkey, Julia!

From Hermione's Heart


Anonymous said...


Thank you for sharing this hilarious story. I remember Julia Child's shows, she was fun to watch. The illustrations you selected are perfect, especially the last photo.


Hermione said...

Thanks, Joey. I believe PBS is still broadcasting her show. I think I'll watch it next time it's on.


sixofthebest said...

Hermione, an interesting sideline to Julia Childs. In World War 11, she was a spy for the U.S A, belonging to the O.S.S. As one can see, she was 'paddling the enemy'. Information on this can be found on the computer. CELEBRATIONS. CANADA. July 1st, U.S.A. July 4th, FRANCE July 14th. Congratulations ALL.

ronnie said...

I'd love to know what else is says underneath "Pain".

I suppose you could say she was one of the chefs who started the popularity of TV chefs.

Really enjoyed the post Hermione, thanks.


Bobbie Jo said...

How funny! Thanks for posting it. I had a good laugh this morning.

Aimless Rambling said...

Pain is the french word for bread.

Wasn't Exit to Eden a movie with Dana Delaney and Rosie O'Donnell. I didn't realize it was an Anne Rice

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I read that Julia, and her husband, Paul had a very happy marriage. Maybe we know their secret now. I'm originally from Colorado, and The Tattererd Cover is my favorite bookstore. I've spent hours there.


Julia said...

Awesome! What a great find!

Unknown said...

Love the photo, and the story is great... Beware of anyone wielding that first spoon...
bottoms up

Hermione said...

Six - That was something that Julia refused to admit to, although there has been much speculation.

Ronnie - Yes, she was the forerunner for all the others.

Bobbie Jo - My pleasure.

Sunnygirl - I wondered when someone would point that out. It was probably something to do with bread, but I like the other interpretation.

The movie was nothing like the book. You must read it.

Kiki - Really? How cool that you are familiar with that bookstore. It sounds wonderful.

Julia - I thought so too:)

Red - Julia would have been quite a formidable figure at 6'2" with that spoon in hand. I'm sure Paul was very well-behaved.


Unknown said...

Now that was a big wooden spoon she was holding. thanks for the read Hermione.

Saoirse said...

Hilarious! Thanks for sharing!

Fizzy said...

I haven't stopped laughing yet - great post, thanks!

Hermione said...

Ticcers - It was my pleasure.

Saiorse - I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Fizzy - You're very welcome.


Mrs. Soft Bottom said...

No wonder I have always loved her! Thanks for sharing!

Hermione said...

Mrs. Soft Bottom - Welcome!