Recommended reading

In advance of the premiere of To Master the Art, many audience members have started to request readings to accompany the play.

Here is a brief list of books that many of the design team and actors have read, as well as recommendations for further reading and viewing, should you be interested in learning more about all that inspired the play.

Julia and Paul Child

  • My Life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme — This is Julia Child’s memoir written with her nephew.
  • Appetite for Life, by Noel Riley Fitch — An exhaustive biography of Julia Child.
  • M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters: Celebrating the Pleasures of the Table by Joan Reardon — Profiles of three revolutionary women of American cuisine.
  • As Always, Julia: The letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, edited by Joan Reardon — This volume of letters between Julia Child and her longtime friend and supporter Avis DeVoto will be published on December 1, 2010.

Paris and French History

  • Paris in the Fifties by Stanley Karnow — A great resource written by an American G.I. turned journalist who worked in Paris during the 1950s.
  • A Concise History of France by Roger Price — A brief introduction to the history of France.
  • An Unamerican Lady by Jane Foster — Written by a friend of Paul and Julia Child, it is a fascinating perspective on McCarthy-era politics in the United States and abroad.

I also recommend volumes with photography of France during the era from noted photographers like Robert Doiseneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Brassaï. Paris: Photographs From a Time That Was, edited by David Travis,  has a nice mix of images.

Essays on French Food Culture

  • Au Revoir to All That by Michael Steinberger — A series of short articles on the rise of French cuisine, including a frightening essay on the rise of McDonald’s in France.



  • Larousse Gastronomique, and Encyclopedia of Practical Gastronomy by Ali Bab — Both of these volumes were owned and used by Julia Child as she began researching French cooking.

And of course I would be remiss if I did not mention at least a few of Julia Child’s cookbooks:

  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volumes 1 and 2
  • The French Chef (also a companion to her television series)
  • Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom: The Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking


Simone Beck also wrote her own cookbook after Mastering the Art of French Cooking, entitled Food and Friends: Recipes and Memories from Simca’s Cuisine.

Many of Julia Child’s cooking programs are being re-aired on television or are available on DVD, including  The Way to Cook and The French Chef in particular.

Do you have any favorite books/films about France or French cooking? Share them in the comments below!

Maren Robinson is the dramaturg for TimeLine’s production of To Master the Art.



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  1. Dana Cox

    Maren- Jacques Pepin’s Apprentice (not at all like Donald Trump’s) is a beautiful depiction of WWII France, urban and rural life, growing up in his mother’s inn, cutting his teeth in fine restaurants starting at age 13. Gives the reader a very intimate view of mid-century France, its working class, and food-centric culture. Chef Pepin is a wonderful story teller.

  2. Gloria Friedman

    Anything by Janet Flanner.