Myra Reilly in Julia and Paul Child’s living room.
By Megan McKinney
La Pitchoune, Julia Child’s summer house in the Provençal village of Plascassier, is something of a shrine—at least it is for those of us who learned the way around a honeymoon kitchen through the pages of Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
In the early 1960s, Julia and her husband, Paul Child, built La Pitchoune, nicknamed La Peetch, on property belonging to Julia’s dear friend and Mastering the Art co-author Simone Beck. Other mid-century culinary giants who dined on the property (and probably tinkered a bit in the kitchen) included James Beard and M.F.K. Fisher.
Julia’s living room/dining room.
The tempting terrace.
So many ways to lunch and dine at La Pitchoune.
When Myra Reilly learned the three-bedroom, three-and-half-bath cottage had become a live-in cooking school for up to six people for a six-day session, she enlisted Susan Regenstein and her husband, Barry Frank, to join her. Although Myra’s husband, renowned Chicago photographer John Reilly, “didn’t want to go, he had a great experience,” according to his wife.
Separately, two women from Chicago—food stylist Carol Smoler and Donna Curin, a retired Loyola University vice president—rounded out the six.
Left to right in the front row are Barry Frank, Donna Curin, Chef “Domi,” Myra Reilly and Susan Regenstein. Carol Smoler is with John Reilly in back.
When the six Chicago students weren’t Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the kitchen where Julia invented the tradition, they were escorted about the the area to enjoy great meals by other French chefs, not to mention memorable French wines.
Additionally, there were shopping trips to butchers, fish mongers and the open-air market at Antibes for the ingredients that create the everyday cuisine for which the French are so admired.
“Not a four star hotel, but comfy enough,” says Myra. Julia and Paul Child’s bedroom, above, became the Reillys’ home for six days and five nights.
Julia’s kitchen is said to have remained much as it was during her years in the house, “with extra-tall wooden counter tops to accommodate her 6-foot-2 frame and pegboard-clad walls with outlines of cooking implements to show what should hang where.”
Myra in the historic kitchen.
Lesson Number One: constructing the perfect omelet.
With a little help and a lot of butter.
The final touches.
Now, John’s turn.
John Reilly Photography
Robert F. Carl