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Where to look if film leaves you hungry for Childs

This movie is making me really hungry!" my 18-year-old daughter whispered to me during an advance screening of "Julie & Julia."

It's about two women: TV chef Julia Child and blogger Julie Powell, who spent a year cooking and writing about every recipe in Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

Although reviews of the film aren't allowed until the movie opens Friday, I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that there's a lot of good food featured in it. I half-expected the concession stands to sell hors d'oeuvres instead of popcorn.

Now I know how sports fans feel when they watch a movie "based on a true story" about their favorite team. You know just enough behind-the-scenes details to annoy those around you with all your comments.

I've interviewed Julia Child, read her memoirs, cooked from her cookbooks and met key players in her career. So if you leave the theater hungry to learn more about Child, who died in 2004, here are some of the "back stories" and books that will tell you more:

The spy: Young Julia McWilliams worked in a spy network during World War II, a forerunner to the CIA. She was posted in Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) where she met her future husband, Paul Child.

The Anne Frank connection: Child's book was rejected by several publishers before Judith Jones, a young editor at Alfred E. Knopf, helped her hone it into a user-friendly tome. Jones had a knack for picking winners. Another book she rescued from the rejection pile was "The Diary of Anne Frank."

Last year I met Jones, now in her 80s and a senior editor at Knopf. She regaled the Association of Food Journalists with stories from her own memoirs, "The Tenth Muse" (Anchor Books, $14.95, paperback), which would also make a great foodie movie.

Child's opinion on the blog: Julia Child was nearing 90 when Powell embarked on her project and became aware of it. In a recent article in Publisher's Weekly, Jones said she and Child read Powell's blog together, and that Child didn't consider Powell a "serious cook." She was also put off by Powell's language.

"Flinging around four-letter words when cooking isn't attractive, to me or Julia. She didn't want to endorse it," Jones said. "What came through on the blog was somebody who was doing it almost for the sake of a stunt."

Yet, Child told me in her interview, "I'm always interested in young people who are considering food as a profession, because you're with people who love what they do."

Behind every successful woman: Child credited a lot of her success to her husband. He encouraged her, was her chief taster and didn't shy away from manual labor.

When Child's first book came out, she launched a do-it-yourself cross country tour to promote it. She would demonstrate a few dishes for ladies' groups, then sign books. Meanwhile, Paul Child would wash the pots and pans for the next demo, sometimes in a restroom sink or a bucket of water if there were no kitchen facilities.

Backstage with Barr: A few years ago I had lunch with Nancy Verde Barr, a chef and assistant to Julia Child for 24 years. Her fond memories are shared in "Backstage With Julia: My Years With Julia Child" (Wiley, $14.95).

Barr tells how Child got them a table in an exclusive restaurant, not by dropping her own name, but by calling her hairdresser whose brother was a dishwasher there. Among the memorable quotes she shared: "The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook."

The Smithsonian: During my interview with Child I mentioned that I'd seen her kitchen that she donated to the Smithsonian.

"Oh, how were they coming with it?" she asked. "They were so persnickety about having to write down every little toothpick and all. I just left everything as it was."

That included the "junk drawer" whose contents included a champagne cork, a World War II- issued signaling mirror, a comb and lipstick.

And her husband had drawn outlines of each pot and pan on a pegboard wall, to make it easier for guests to help put them away.

e-mail: vphillips@desnews.com