Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell


This book was different than I expected. I was imagining a restaurant worker creating fancy recipes to show they had more skill than were given credit for. Instead, it was a secretary who is having a mid-life crisis(at 30) and decides to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child’s iconic first cookbook and blog about it. She’s new to blogging culture and calls her readers “bleaders”, one of many funny comments.
Thankfully, there were no recipes in this book, just the experiences of cooking (sometimes using unfamiliar and hard-to-obtain ingredients), the difficulty of some of the dishes and her family and friends’ responses to it all.Her husband, Eric, is extremely supportive of her project and even washes the dishes much of the time. The kitchen adventures are interspersed with childhood memories, stories of friends and household disasters in their crumbling loft apartment in New York City, where the plumbing often refuses to work.
I didn’t feel an urge to try cooking any of the recipes, though I could see how some people might. Her determination to cook the whole book impressed me, though as time went on and her stress level rose, I wondered if she would finish or have a breakdown first. Some of the dishes really didn’t seem worth all of the trouble they took to make, but then, I’m a humble eater. In fact, I couldn’t handle the descriptions of many of the meat preparations, from trussed chickens to boiling calves hooves for aspic. I had to skip the section dealing with lobsters altogether, especially when she insisted on cooking them alive. After all the other yukky things she did, her cowardice in not killing them before boiling was immature.
Powell’s real job was with an unidentified government agency dealing with the 9/11 Twin Towers tragedy: PR duties, dealing with the families, reviewing suggestions for a memorial. In some ways, this was more interesting than the cooking project. Her ongoing crush on the actor David Strathairn was amusing and I cheered when she saw him eating cookies that she had made and delivered to the theater he was performing at.
Towards the end of the book, the author reaches new neurotic heights, even as her blog is gaining fame and prominence, leading to magazine articles and interviews. Eventually, it led to a movie version of this book (which I still haven’t seen). The last part loses its way a bit, but wasn’t enough to ruin an entertaining account of a type of endurance usually reserved for sporting events.

Little, Brown & Co. 2005 321 pp. ISBN-13:978-0316109697

Jackie’s sister calls her the Pasta Princess because of how often she makes macaroni and spaghetti. Not sure if it’s an insult or compliment.

7 comments on “Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

  1. annebrooke
    June 20, 2011

    Sounds very challenging, Jackie! I always associate cooking with comfort too … Mind you, I bet you make fantastic pasta! :)

    Anne
    xxx

  2. Hilary
    June 20, 2011

    I’m really interested in this book, and want to see the film sometime – it’s an intriguing idea, but what a madcap scheme! I didn’t know it was such a chronicle of angst, though I’m now not surprised. Thanks for the review, Jackie, that has definitely reinforced my wish to read it!

  3. Lisa
    June 21, 2011

    I’ve heard lots of hype about this book and I was intrigued to read it, but your mention of boiled hooves has somewhat put me off. Yuck. Maybe one to look at in the library. Thanks for the interesting review, Jackie.

  4. Nikki
    June 26, 2011

    I have the DVD of this. I really enjoy the film (Meryl Streep is fabulous) and I’ve been considering reading the book although I winced at the lobster scenes so perhaps it’s a bit too intense for this wibbly vegetarian?

  5. Jackie
    June 26, 2011

    You can easily skip over the more graphic scenes in the book. I certainly did. There’s actually only a few incidents like that & each is not more than a couple paragraphs, if I recall correctly.

  6. SilverSeason
    June 28, 2011

    The movie was better than the book because of the Julia Child scenes.

  7. The Queen Vee
    July 13, 2011

    Skip the book and see the movie, for once the movie was better than the book.

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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