The Tenth Muse – My Life in Food

The Tenth Muse

by Judith Jones
Genres: Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
Published on December 24, 2008
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover Source: Owned

From the legendary editor who helped shape modern cookbook publishing-one of the food world's most admired figures-comes this evocative and inspiring memoir.

Living in Paris after World War II, Jones broke free of bland American food and reveled in everyday French culinary delights. On returning to the States she published Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The rest is publishing and gastronomic history. A new world now opened up to Jones as she discovered, with her husband Evan, the delights of American food, publishing some of the premier culinary luminaries of the twentieth century: from Julia Child, James Beard, and M.F.K. Fisher to Claudia Roden, Edna Lewis, and Lidia Bastianich. Here also are fifty of Jones's favorite recipes collected over a lifetime of cooking-each with its own story and special tips. The Tenth Muse is an absolutely charming memoir by a woman who was present at the creation of the American food revolution and played a pivotal role in shaping it.

When I was watching the TV series Julia recently, one of the characters I was most interested in was her editor, Judith Jones. In the show she is juggling editing big name literary writers while trying to branch out into working with more food writers. I looked her up and realized that she wrote a memoir. I ordered copy immediately.

Judith Jones grew up in a privileged East Coast United States home with a very bland diet. Her mother considered garlic to be very racy. Judith went to France shortly after the end of World War II and got a series of very odd jobs to try to make enough money to stay there. She ended meeting her future husband shortly after he separated from his wife. She definitely didn’t tell her mother that she was living with a still-married man. The whole time she was developing her appreciation of food and wine.

When they came back to the states she got a job in publishing at Knopf. She was disappointed that she couldn’t cook or eat the way she did in France. When an opportunity came to work on a cookbook trying to teach Americans to cook like French people she jumped on it. From there she moved into a whole world of cookbook publishing.

She never met an animal she wouldn’t eat. I don’t think we would have gotten along well. There were parts of the book that were pretty cringey for me read. There was one day when I was listening to videos on using beavers for wetlands restoration projects while I was reading about her killing and eating a beaver on her land for the crime of making a pond. Then she was shocked that people got mad at her about it. She’s a big fan of offal and is very disappointed in Americans for not appreciating it.

If you put all that aside, she had a very interesting life. The book was fascinating. She knew and worked with everyone in food in the mid-twentieth century. She did everything from working in a criminal car rental office, to picking Anne Frank’s diary out of a submissions slush pile, to editing Sarte and Irving, to editing cookbooks on almost every cuisine, to writing her own bread making books. I just won’t be making her recipe on how to cook brains.