Friday, August 8, 2008

Review: Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen by Julie Powell
4 stars

Reasons for reading: I'd heard lots of buzz about it; I like books about blogging; Nonfiction for the Triple 8 Challenge and Julia Child's August birthday for the Every Month is a Holiday Challenge

Book Description: Julie & Julia is the story of Julie Powell's attempt to revitalize her marriage, restore her ambition, and save her soul by cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, in a period of 365 days. . . When we first meet Julie, she's a frustrated temp-to-perm secretary who slaves away at a thankless job, only to return to an equally demoralizing apartment in the outer boroughs of Manhattan each evening. At the urging of Eric, her devoted and slightly geeky husband, she decides to start a blog that will chronicle what she dubs the "Julie/Julia Project." What follows is a year of butter-drenched meals that will both necessitate the wearing of an unbearably uncomfortable girdle on the hottest night of the year, as well as the realization that life is what you make of it and joy is not as impossible a quest as it may seem, even when it's -10 degrees out and your pipes are frozen.

What I liked:
- The stories of her cooking adventures! Killing a live lobster, boning a duck, removing the marrow from a bone, getting mayonnaise and gelatins to set. . . things I hope to never, ever have to do, but I fully enjoyed reading her accounts of them.

- Her love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! I really enjoyed her references to it and I have to say, she's made of sterner stuff than I am, to cook for a journalist on the night of the series finale! Buffy even gets a mention at the end of the Project, which ends "back exactly where we started - just Eric and me, three cats and Buffy...sitting on a couch in the outer boroughs, eating, with Julia chortling alongside us..."

- Her conclusion that what helps you make your way in life is joy, and that's what she found in MtAoFC , that it had "the deeply buried aroma of hope and discovery of fulfillment in it." And that Julia Child didn't find it til she was 37, when she married her husband and learned to cook, so perhaps it's not too late for Julie and for me.

What I didn't like:

- The constant cracks against Republicans. I'm Canadian, I'm not particularly political and I don't really care, but it just irked me. It didn't have anything to do with anything about the Project. One crack would've been enough to let us know where she stood, if we really needed to know, but there was one about every other chapter and it got tiresome.

- I could have done with less about her job at the government agency responsible for post-September 11th tributes. (Although the story of the dominatrix who called up to find out about government aid for her business was hilarious!) Some of it was necessary to show why she was so unhappy with things in her life, but I'd have preferred to have read more actual blog posts or more about the cooking.

- Julie, sometimes. But, unlike a book character, she's a real person and I don't like me all the time, so I can forgive her some whininess and histrionics.

Other thoughts:

After finishing the book, I looked up Julia Child on YouTube and my, she was quite the dame! I hadn't seen much of her and mostly thought, as many people do, of Dan Akroyd's SNL sketch about her. But the clips I found of her show were fascinating, such a product of the 70's but also good, solid cooking tips. The first one I saw was of Julia's omlette-jerking technique, which is among the first things Julie describes. And there was one called "Bavarian Combos, " all about the joys of molded, custardy desserts. And she signed off with "The next time you make a dessert, don't be a square with a chiffon pie, because now you've got the know-how to really swing [arm-waving gesture] with the Bavarian Combo!" Honestly, you couldn't pay today's actual comedy writers enough to come up with that kind of cheesy goodness! (Seriously, look Julia Child up on YouTube - as some a kid Julie overheard at the Julia Child exhibit at the Smithsonian said,"in awed tones, 'Julia Child is crazy.' ")

Finally, In one of those examples of books coming to you at the right time, I could really relate to Julie. I'm around the same age, my biological clock is ticking very loudly but my diabetes and weight issues mean babymaking is tricky and an increasingly worrisome prospect. Also, while at heart I do love my job, it's currently making me pretty unhappy a lot of the time. Maybe I need a year-long blogging project! Any suggestions?? It seems to have done her a world of good, I could use something like it. I just wish I knew what it was . . .


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this book when I read it last year (and am psyched to hear that it is being made into a movie staring Meryl Streep as Julia Child)!

Melwyk said...

Wow, I hadn't heard that a movie was in the works! I read this book prepublication and really, really enjoyed it. I had some of the same reservations that you mentioned but overall thought it was fascinating, and the idea of a one-year project does appeal to me as well. (though, as a vegetarian, not quite this one!)

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Yeah, I found out about the movie after I finished the book. It'll be interesting to see it translated to the big screen. And you can't go wrong with Meryl Streep.