August 13, 2009

Je t'aime Julie & Julia

I loved the movie Julie and Julia. I went to see it with Nora a few days ago on my first visit to her new home in San Clemente, CA. We had hoped to see it together as we share a great love of Julia Child and the timing of my trip coincided nicely with the release of the movie. So often a long-anticipated movie turns out to be a disappointment...but not this time. It was wonderful.

Nora and I had both read the two books, My Life In France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme and Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell, that Nora Ephron (or other Nora, as I like to call her) combined elements of to create her brillant movie script. Although I could have watched 123 minutes of Meryl Streep portraying Julia Child, the addition of Amy Adam's character as novice blogger/cook was the perfect counterweight to the Julia Child segments. Julie Powell's aspirations are what is inspiring moviegoers (or at least two of us) to revisit the cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, sharpen their knives and break out the whisks. Personally, I left the movie with an unusual but urgent desire to braise cucumbers.

I have been in possession of this book for more than 30 years. It was a gift from my mother at some point in the early 1970's. Although the cover is torn and the book appears to be well-used I haven't cooked many of the recipes. I have used it more as a reference book than as one of my primary cookbooks, but this will change, soon. The book's foreword with its dedication to the "servantless American cook" and it's gentle admonition to read the entire recipe before beginning the cooking process is both charming and reassuring. Julia and her co-authors have a passion for French cuisine, and their detailed recipes and instruction on specific techniques make it possible for all of us to share their enthusiasm.

As an aspiring author I also loved the movie's depiction of the path to publication. Julia, Simca and Louisette suffered many setbacks and chauvinistic rejections. I think there was more than eight years of writing, revising and testing recipes before Knopf agreed to buy the book. I imagine everyone ever associated with Houghton Mifflin will grimace when the meeting where their editors decide to reject the manuscript appears on the screen. Ha! Julia and the girls showed them. Judith Jones, the Knopf editor who helped bring this book and many other well-known cookbooks to publication, has written a charming book, The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food, that Julia fans will enjoy reading, too.

Julie Powell's path to publication was certainly the exception rather than the typical experience. Toward the end of her year of "cooking dangerously" her blog (written at a time when blogs weren't as numerous as they are today) caught the attention of food writers. In particular, an article in the NY Times, brought her a lot of publicity and her phone was soon ringing off the hook with offers of agent representation and book contracts. Hmmm. Don't know of too many authors who succeeded with this exact scenario, but blogging has definitely become a necessity for any aspiring author.

So, here's my new life recipe.

1. Sharpen knives. Purchase new box of Band-Aids.
2. Try some intriguing new recipes, preferably those without copious amounts of butter.
3. Try the Julia Child approach to life...identify passions, embrace them and persevere.
4. Write and blog. Write and blog. Write and blog.
5. Look in the mirror and shout "Bon Appetite!" with gusto everyday.


Laura said...

Awwww....I can't wait to see that movie. So far away from a theater now! Glad you had a great time in Portland and that you and your old friend got to see each other!

Maggie said...

Hop in your car immediately. It's worth the trip. Unfortunately I just checked and the closest theater playing it is in Salinas. You could also visit the Steinbeck museum and maybe hit the Target on the same trip? I know you need to maximize those outings up Hwy 1.