The house wasn't actually owned by Julia and Paul Child, though they paid to have it built in 1965. After World War II the French became nervous about foreign takeovers so they forbade any type of ownership of property by non-citizens. Instead, Simone Beck, Julia's good friend and co-author of her famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking simply carved out a small section of her own estate and they became neighbors. And Julia only spent a small part of her year living there while she and Simca collaborated on perfecting dishes during the day then eating and relaxing in the evening with their husbands.
As Julia aged and stopped traveling she sold the house to a woman who ran a cooking school (by this time the French laws had changed and she was able to own the house). Then when that woman put the house on the market Makenna Held purchased it sight unseen.
Over the last few years Makenna has made a few improvements like adding bathrooms to each bedroom and bringing the 50-year old plumbing up to date. But she and her husband have kept the house true to the retreat that Julia loved so much. They picture themselves as curators as much as educators. Makenna's husband, Chris, in fact, is both librarian and historian.
Then, to be able to lead the cooking school Makenna attended Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. There she met our main instructor, Kendall Lane, who has been cooking since she was 14. Kendall's husband rounded out their main faculty as sommelier. Ross is also the plumber and welder and just about anything else they need. Most of the time we never saw the guys. The couple is building a restaurant in an adjacent town and the men spent most of their time overseeing the construction of that.
Anyone who has watched the TV show that gave my daughter the idea to come to this magical place (La Pitchoune; Cooking in France....HBO Max or the Magnolia network) has seen Pilou, the little dog that they say is not their dog but who roams around the neighborhood. Kendal was inclined to leave the kitchen door open ajar and Pilou is used to helping himself to their hospitality. We had a couple of Pilou sightings but the dog is so small and so old that we really heard him wheezing and snorting more than actually saw him. He would walk in and circle around the kitchen island then walk back out if there were no tasty bits falling from the sky. It was the gray cat, Lulu who captured our hearts. And we were able to spend time petting her when she wanted us to. On our last day she showed up with a deep wound on her read end. When we mentioned it to Kendall she whipped out her phone and within minutes we looked out the window and saw Makenna run by and scoop up the cat with a towel and get in the car and race off. Everyone was very worried, especially when we heard that the vet declared Lulu needed surgery. She was going to have to spend two weeks at home with Makenna's family........a feral cat who had never been in a car, never been to the vet, never stayed in a house or used a litter box; all of this while wearing a collar.
Each one of the three bedrooms held a set of twin beds to accommodate the six students they teach each week. The beds are comfy, the linens are luxurious and the bathroom amenities are the best. It would rank up there with the top hotels. Elizabeth and I were given the guest room across the hall from the kitchen where James Beard usually stayed when he visited. The master bedroom was at the end of the hall and there was another bedroom next to it.
We ate most of our meals at the dining table that sat at one end of the living room. Sometimes we ate outside on the porch in the gracious French climate.
Then there was the kitchen. And here is the magic that happened. The magic of the whole week. I'll talk about that in my next post.
What started out as an intimidating room --Julia Child's Kitchen!!!-- became OUR kitchen.