Monday, July 10, 2006

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

The complete title of this book is: Julie & Julia 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living.

Returning to my inner debate about writing style vs. plot, I find this book raises more questions than it answers. It’s not particularly well written – it’s too long, the writing style is extremely informal, and it’s very digressive. A paragraph that starts out about Oeufs en Gelee ends up talking about shaving soap. I kept this book around for weeks before actually starting it, alternately picking it up and putting it down again, thinking “am I really going to be able to read this?” But I generally like books about food, especially food in the context of family and relationships, so I did try it, and am glad that I did.

The writer is endearing, and her project is admirable: to cook all 524 recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child in the space of one year. Having cooked some of these recipes myself, I am filled with awe that anyone would take on such a project, let alone complete it. The project was a journey of self-discovery for the author, who is a let-it-all-hang-out kind of girl, the kind of person you can’t help but like, despite her foul mouth and her obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In places, this book is very funny, and some of Powell’s observations about food, life, jobs, and relationships are poignant and clever. But sometimes she goes a little too far with the snarky comments and the pop-culture references – this book will be dated very quickly, which I think is a shame.

Powell recorded her reactions to cooking all the recipes in a blog called the Julie/Julia Project. You can tell from reading the entries that a good editor has had a hand in the transition of the blog into the book. I recommend this book to people who like to cook, and people who enjoy Julia Child’s books and television shows, but maybe not to everyone else.

This morning I got out my copy of MtAoFC (as Julie affectionately refers to it). My copy originally belonged to my mother, who was of that generation most influenced by Child’s books, and by the television show The French Chef. In honor of my mother, and Julia Child, and Julie Powell, I cooked Salade a la D’Argenson, which is potato and beet salad in a vinaigrette dressing, a recipe which warrants quite a discussion in Powell’s book, and which is really delicious, if you happen to like beets.

(Book 30, 2006)


cmft said...

Did you know that your blog comes up second if you do a search for Salade a la D’Argenson (not even using quotation marks) on Google??

Anonymous said...

Beck, I have many happy memories of sitting with you, your mom, and mine watching Julia Child on public tv. And of eating scrumptious food your mother would cook.xo Laine

Anonymous said...

interesting to read your thoughts. i actually liked the tone of the blog a lot better and had a hard time with the book because it just felt like such a different voice.

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