Julie & Julia, Julie Powell, Little Brown and Company, 2005, 307 pp
(This will be the second and final post in what I earlier said would be a three-part series, because I combined the book and the movie here. I realized that I just need to move on.)
Julie Powell is one of those early examples of someone who got a book deal from a blog. As everyone in the world now knows, she spent a year cooking every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and blogged about it while working as a secretary at a government agency in NYC, the purpose of which was connected to rebuilding Ground Zero.
Then she got the book deal and could quit her job. Next Nora Ephron combined Julie & Julia with My Life in France and made the movie, which I have now watched. More on the movie at the end of this post.
Even though 2005 was five long years ago in our rapidly changing world, Julie & Julia has a very current feel. And it is hilarious. I laughed out loud and hard every few pages. Julie builds tension often, usually due to attempting some dish like eggs poached in red wine or making mayonnaise or cooking brains, and having it go wrong, whereupon she begins freaking out requiring her long-suffering husband to talk her off the ledge. Somehow, although after a while you realize that it always comes out OK, she still can make you worry that the whole enterprise will crash and burn. Everything is always OK when they sit down to eat. That is the power of butter, garlic and wine.
I liked her scrappy, left-wing view of life and her compulsive use of the F-word, her obsessive approach to a project that was at first only vital in her own mind. She proves one of my most dearly cherished notions: that one's passion is one's destiny, whether or not it appears to be paying off on any given day.
Since I had finished My Life in France just days before, I was already immersed in Julia Child's patterns of hyperactive cooking and in her epic stories, such as how to turn an omelette. As Julie tried to follow Julia's instructions, I was right there with her. The book is big fun and inspired my cooking even further.
The movie: It was great, especially Meryl Streep as Julia Child. She does the voice, the thing where she is always bending over because she is so tall, and the whole feeling of My Life in France comes across perfectly. Same with Amy Adams as Julie. The only caveat I have is that if you see the movie without reading both books you miss so much of both stories, because it would not be possible to fit it all in a movie. Having read the book I could happily fill in the blanks. Still, the movie stands on its own. My husband watched it with me and was spellbound and impressed because he believes in food and he believes in love.
I have asked for Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my birthday. All I can say is that I better get up to walking five miles a day (I am at 3 now) because otherwise I don't stand a chance.
(All of the books mentioned in this review are available on the shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)