I am in lurve with Julie Powell. I’m sure we’d be tight, enabling, well-fed friends (all offal aside, and extra vodka gimlets please!). She wrote Julie & Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen and it was one of the most entertaining reads I’ve had in a long time. I think part of the reason I was so depressed yesterday was that I’d finished the book and was feeling bereft.
Trampled, unfulfilled and disillusioned by her government job in NYC post-9/11 days, Julie’s husband convinces her to start a blog and hits upon the idea of making it about cooking – since she’s already pretty decent at it. While visiting her parents in Austin, TX she lights upon Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. What ensues over the next year of Julie Powell’s life is harrowing to her, hilarious to us, and chock full of enlightening moments that we can share with her – along with a love for vodka gimlets.
Over the passage of a year, Julie attempts to cook every recipe in the book. She makes everything from omelettes, souffles and tarts to brains, kidneys and liver and in the process encounters many challenges: antiquated ingredients, technical knowhow, plumbing catastrophies, a closet-sized and under-equipped kitchen, her own hair-trigger psyche, and finding gullible taste testing subjects. And she does it all with a more than healthy dose of curses and catastrophies – both personal and professional.
If you know of Julia Child, ever have seen her cooking shows, or even Dan Aykroyd’s impersonation you know that she is unfailingly entertaining while being infinitely knowledgeable. One of my favorite childhood memories was of Julia BASHING a chicken with a wine bottle to tenderize it. That’s Julia – making food of all precision and pretention, but holding none of it herself. And while Julie Powell dreams of channelling Julia she fails repeatedly in a swarm of deliciously entertaining ways.
Both Julia and Julie are human and failable and not afraid to cop to it, and are consequently a delight to watch. You too can set the bar high and alternately fall flat on your face or be surprised with hoped-for sucess! And possibly – in the process, find yourself. Life’s a bitch ain’t it?
And if you want to read more about la cuisiniere Julia Child, try Julia Child: A Life by Laura Shapiro.
Note: Hollywood is coming out with a movie based on this book, directed by Nora Ephron and starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. Please, please, pu-leeze read the book first. There is no way that the movie will compare, trust me. It’ll be toned-down, censored, rearranged to a point of almost unrecognizability (is that a word??) in order to fit the Hollywood marketing formula.