Sometimes when the mood strikes I scan YouTube for videos of people speaking French, namely celebrities speaking it as a second language. I guess it gives me a bit of a morale boost to see successful people tackling the same task which in turn makes me feel better about my own struggles with it. Some speak surprisingly fluently, like Jodie Foster who attended a French school in the US and does entire interviews in Paris with few mistakes and almost no accent. Bradley Cooper of “Hangover” fame is another actor who recently popped up in all-French interviews, having studied in the south of France during college. John Malkovich, Johnny Depp, Lisa Kudrow, and even “House” doctor Hugh Laurie make up a formidable list of celebs that can be seen Frenching it up online.
Yesterday one of these searches led to a video of Julia Child being interviewed. It was in English but I assumed somewhere she must start speaking some French, so I continued watching. I always knew her as the loveable funny-voiced cooking show lady, and more recently the movie “Julie and Julia” showed in more detail how she moved to Paris in the 1940’s with her husband and fell in love with French cooking. This led to her work on an enormously famous book called Mastering the Art of French Cooking which was the start of both her culinary career and a new respect for French cuisine in the States. Her story is a bit inspiring for me because she arrived in a foreign country as a grown adult without much direction, managed to find inspiration, and transformed her life into one of passion and contentment. “I was never turned on by anything until I discovered French food,” she claims. Child also wrote a book about her time in Paris which I look forward to reading one day.
While she didn’t speak much French in this YouTube clip, she did talk about her arrival in France to start her new life. She mentioned how they didn’t land immediately in Paris but approached from the north, stopping for their first French meal in an old medieval city called Rouen.
Cool, we just went to Rouen last month, I thought. (Actually I’ve been meaning to post my pictures of it for a while now).
Then she described the lovely streets and buildings of the town, and how she visited the place that Rouen is famous for, the exact spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431.
Cool, we went to that spot too!
Then about how she found this charming old restaurant nearby called La Couronne, and how it was the very first meal of her new life in France, and how she ordered the pressed duck where they press the carcass of the bird to make a delicious gravy that goes over the rest of the meat, and how it was a mind-blowing revelation and the beginning of her passion for French cuisine.
Hmm, why does La Couronne sound so familiar? Should check my camera from our Rouen trip…
Ha! After visiting the Joan of Arc monument Charlotte and I had crossed the street to continue exploring, and I remember a restaurant and its large crown (la couronne) catching my eye, as I daydreamt of popping in for some traditional French meal that would knock my socks off. Little did I know Julia Child was there decades before, doing exactly that!
It’s too bad I didn’t eat there, which would’ve been the proper ending to this story. But there’s still plenty of coolness factor for me that I stopped for a picture of this restaurant over all others, with no idea that someone’s story I admire not only took place there—it pretty much started there. As is often the case, I’ll chalk it up to a culture and country that’s so loaded with historical surprises that you often don’t realize, walking down any given street, just how connected you might be at that moment to the things that matter to you.