Sunday, May 9, 2010

Coffee Table Book: Julie Powell's "Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously"

Oh, how to begin a book review on my mostly-food blog about a book about cooking and food-blogging? I feel like anything I say could be construed as cliche or just mimicking thoughts from the book, so, here goes nothing:

 I picked this book up after I had watched the movie with my husband. What I loved most about the book was the same thing I loved most about the movie: the honesty and wit. An openly miserable (apparently mostly bored/aimless) soon-to-be thirty-year-old city-slicker, Julie Powell picks up her mother's copy of  Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and, with very little thought, decides to prepare every single dish listed in the cookbook in her tiny apartment. In a year. And blog the whole way through it.

With what appears to be an almost even split between successes and epic failures, Julie's experiences in the kitchen are usually replete with profanities and gimlets (ice-cold vodka and Rose's lime juice combined). Her husband seems be her bartender, dishwasher, guinea pig and Valium-equivalent in the household. It's his support that takes enough edge off to let her focus on her project.

While she never met Julia Child, Julie speaks about hearing and feeling Julia in her mind - a pretty amazing thing to occur considering her only connections would be the cookbook itself and the DVDs of her old TV show "The French Chef."

A few things I was displeased with in/about the book:

  • The use of Paul Child's (Julia Child's husband) letters. While I'm sure she was trying to draw the line between her story and Julia's, I just didn't get anything from them and was more bugged when I came upon his letters scattered throughout the book.
  • Julie's disassociation from 9/11 in general (very much so on page 68). 
  • Julie's choice not to include or go into much detail about how she so quickly "rose to fame," if you will. I would have liked to hear more about how it happened so quickly, how her friends/family reacted, what it meant for her, etc.
Conclusion: I thought the book was great: very well-written and attention-keeping when it's not grabbing. A lot of interesting (to say the least) recipes that sound nothing but fabulous when described in French. A lot of funny interactions between Julie and her food, husband and friends/family. And, mostly, a lot of motivation. Who couldn't use some of that in the kitchen or in life? 

P.S. I should mention that Julie began blogging in August 2002 (marking the beginning of her project) and quit in December of 2003. If you'd like to check out the original, and I highly recommend it, click here.

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