How to Sing Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Though she had no tender feelings for Julie Powell’s Julia/Julie blog, I like to think Julia Child wouldn’t have been entirely displeased by the Bushwick Book Club’s efforts to musicalize Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Child’s two volume labor of love (and the inspiration for Powell’s celebrated blog).

The “club,” a free floating, discussion-free group of New York City-based singer-songwriters, started in 2009, when Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions was celebrated with music and thematic drink specials. In the ensuing half-decade, they’ve met monthly to wrestle with such titles as The Great Gatsby, Madame Bovary and Dolly Parton’s autobiography.

Some contributions to these events do feel half-baked, as if the performer delayed starting work in case he or she might be able to finish the book on the bus ride to the show. Others are well crafted, as well as insightful.

Leslie Graves’ musical recitation of Child’s “Flaming Tart” is the sort of naughty fun Bessie Smith wanted in her bowl:

And just before entering 

Put a warm liqueur 

Over the hot caramelized surface…

Not, presumably, what Child had in mind when she wrote those words, although the happiness of her marriage is well documented. (If we could just have the kitchen and the bedroom, that would be all we need.”)

The link between stomach and heart underscores Hilary Downes’ bossa nova-inflected “Masters of the Table” and Shannon Pelcher’s gentle “Eating” which looks past Child’s towering culinary achievement to her yearning TV audience.

I did hear a sound midway between an egg beater and someone spinning beneath her Bon Appetit-engraved tombstone when club founder Susan Hwang slipped the phrase “walking corpses” into Child’s “List of Equipment.” But she balanced the scales with a sincere compliment to the all-too-rare sound of Child’s unmistakable voice.

(This made me so nostalgic, I had to rustle up Dan Aykroyd’s tasteless but classic impersonation from 1978…)

Stuff yourself on the entire evening’s songs using the link at the top of this page.

Or, should you crave a different sort of fare, join the Bushwick Book Club on the Frying Pan October 29, when they consider The Shining by Stephen King.

Related Content:

Julia Child Shows How to Edit Videotape with a Meat Cleaver, and Cook Meat with a Blow Torch

Remembering Julia Child on Her 100th Birthday with Her Classic Appearance on the Letterman Show

How Cooking Can Change Your Life: A Short Animated Film Featuring the Wisdom of Michael Pollan

Ayun Halliday is an author whose Zinester’s Guide to NYC inspired a pretty great song of its own. Follow her @AyunHalliday


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