Julia Childs immortalized her 1st cat in a children's book

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 16 2012 4:49 p.m. MDT

Black bean and corn salad from "What are You Doing for Lunch? Not Just a Cookbook"

Abrams Books for Young Readers

Did you know that about Julia Child's well-fed cat? Well, I didn't; until now.

In August, I wrote a column noting the 100th birthday of culinary queen Julia Child. Although she passed away in 2004, her memory lives on. Just about every aspect of her life has been examined through cookbooks, biographies, boxed CD sets of her TV cooking show, "The French Chef," a Smithsonian exhibit of her kitchen, and the hit movie, "Julie and Julia."

Now one of her cat has been immortalized in a children's picture book, "Minette's Feast," (Abrams Books for Young Readers, $16.95) written by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Amy Bates.

The book, released last May, takes place in Paris, where Julia and her husband Paul lived during the late 1940s and early 1950s. This is where they found and adopted Minette, the first of their many cats. In the story, Julia cooks in her cozy apartment one block from the River Seine, while Minette catches mice. Minette prefers mouse over Julia's fabulous gourmet cooking that she learned at the Cordon Bleu.

Reich saw a copy of my column on Julia Child, and emailed me asking if I knew about her children's book, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

"I've been a lifelong Julia fan, and was thrilled to meet her when I created the flower arrangements for her 80th birthday party in New York City," Reich wrote. "Later I became an award-winning children's book author, and for years I wanted to write a book about her. Then I found out she was a cat lover who got her first cat, Minette, when she and her husband lived in Paris. Julia fed Minette leftovers (lucky cat!), and in return Minette brought Julia … fresh-caught mice! Julia wrote about Minette in her letters and memoirs, and now children can get to know Julia through this funny and very tasty story, exquisitely illustrated by New York Times bestselling illustrator Amy Bates."

In the story, Minette warily watches while Julia "baked, blanched, blended and boiled, drained and dried, dusted and fried. She floured and flipped, pitted and plucked, rinsed and roasted, sizzled and skimmed. And when she wasn't trimming, toasting, or topping, she was washing, whipping and whisking!"

The text is sprinkled with quotes both in English and French, such as "Une Maison sans chat, c'est la vie sans soleil!" (Or, "A house without a cat is like life without sunshine!")

Many of them are actual quotes from letters or memoirs of Paul and Julia Child. Notes in the back of the book offer the references. For instance, Paul Child's statement that Julia was "the butter to my bread," is from a letter to Charles Child in the spring of 1951 and quoted in the Child biography, "Appetite For Life."

For those of us who are unfamiliar with French, there's a glossary and pronunciation guide for some of the terms such as "le Boulanger" (luh boo-lon-ZHAY), or the baker. So when you read the book aloud to your kids, you can impress them with your command of the language … or at least sound like you know what you're talking about.

The movie "Julie and Julia" endeared a new generation to Child when it came out in 2009. Now Child is being introduced to an even younger generation through this children's book, "Minette's Feast."

And for those who are true-blue Julia fans, it's just one more book for your collection.

Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor and the author of "Soup's On!" published by Covenant Communications. She blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com.

Email: vphillips@desnews.com

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