Julie Powell, Julie and Julia, My Year of Cooking Dangerously (2005)

This book is a bit like a bath bubble. It’s fun and fluffy, looks delightful to look at while you’re soaking in the bath, but when it’s over, there’s not much left. It’s chick-lit in a sense, but without the fiction part. Yes, it reads like a super-long, chatty, girlfriend blog post, a bit all over the place, but I say it in the positive way: if I’d had been aware of blogs back in 2002, I would have been hooked too (what I was hooked on back in 2002 is another story).

I know that some found Julie’s voice whiny and annoying, but I felt that she mostly rang true (if a bit hysterical on some pages, but what do you expect from someone who’s suddenly catapulted from a boring job to stardom?). Some argue that she swears too much and is hardly a role model, but she never pretended to be one. She’s not a character of some fairy tale, she’s a real person. But otherwise if you’re in for good food and finery, you might end up disappointed. She doesn’t even pretend to know how to cook. I didn’t care so much about her private life, family and friends, but as most people I guess, I was moved by her launching a crazy project just as she was stuck in a dead-end job. It’s great to have someone tell you that no matter what you do as a day job, you might do something completely out of the ordinary outside of your job, that will turn your whole life upside down. She’s candid and enthusiastic, and she obviously loves food for its sensuality, not in a reverent, intellectual way (the pages on cooking and eating marrow are the best, in my sense – how many Americans would dare to cook bone marrow, I wonder?).

The strange, tongue-in-cheek joke, to me, is that Julie and Julia both got famous for worshipping traditional French food. A fame that didn’t cross the Atlantic back until last year’s movie (which I didn’t see). I love good food, I enjoy cooking (in moderation), but falling head over heels for a foreign, elaborate cooking style that doesn’t suit your life or your tastes is a bit perplexing to me.

By the way, in a vague recollection of Julie’s pages on bone marrow, I cooked a veal brain last week. Wicked French food!

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4 thoughts on “Julie Powell, Julie and Julia, My Year of Cooking Dangerously (2005)

  1. Julie was stuck in a dead-end job mostly because of her own choices to avoid anything more challenging. The cooking project was admirable in that she decided to take responsibility for getting something done, herself, no excuses.

    Go see the movie. It is not about cooking as much as enjoying the pleasures of life. For Julia Child it was not just the food (maybe its foreignness made her more able to enjoy it for what it was), but also taking charge. She waded in and did it herself.

  2. I loved the book, didn’t love the movie so much, although of course the Meryl Streep portions rocked! That said, I’ve noticed the movie bring out a HUGE generational divide in people, with people over 45/50 loving the Julia child portion of the movie while decrying Julia Powell’s role, and those who are younger than 45 sort of “getting” the whole Julia Powell thing. Interesting…

  3. I found the book very whiney, but I really enjoyed the movie. While I enjoyed the Julia Child parts more, I don’t think that I fit into the generational divide that Courtney mentioned — although I think there is a lot of truth in her comment. I just found Meryl Strep so delightful that it overshadowed the other parts of the movie. I was glad that the movie producers decided to merge Julie Powell’s book with Julia Child’s autobiography — I don’t think the Powell’s book could have stood alone as a movie — but I don’t think the other is true: a memoir of Julia Childs certainly would have been fine on its own.

    Despite the whine and weakness of the book & movie, I still was fascinated by Julie Powell’s project and journey to its completion. I just wish that the book was about 75 pages shorter, as those last pages were a hard slog.

  4. Pingback: 2010 Stats and Memorable « Smithereens

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