Monday, August 24, 2009

Thoughts About Julie & Julia

The reason that I was unimpressed with Julie Powell's blogging project when I heard of it a few years ago, was that I'd heard years earlier, that is how Martha Stewart taught herself to cook. When I heard the blog idea that had since become a book I thought, "Ho hum, unoriginal idea, Martha did that and now Julie Powell is copying it.". I believe a certain friend of mine told me about it after reading the article about Powell in The New York Times, in one of our discussions about blogging and what people blog about and if a person could actually make real money from blogging or not.

That is the reason why me, a blogger and a bookworm, did not run out and buy or even read a library copy of Powell's blook when it did publish. Plus later a friend said that she comes off whiny in the book. I was not interested, sorry, even despite me being a blogger and me feeling happy that Powell was able to turn her blog into a book.

When I heard the blog and book was being made into a movie I was really happy for Powell, imagining her rolling in the dough from what started as a DIY project that so many creative American women do but seldom ever earn a dime from.

When I heard the movie had Meryl Streep and told the story of Julia Child's life now my interest was piqued. When I hard Streep was fantastic in the movie I really wanted to see it.

I finally saw the movie yesterday, going with my foodie, self-taught home cook husband and my mother-in-law. Truth be told I urged my husband to go as I thought he'd like it for the cooking part. When I mentioned going to my mother-in-law she said she wanted to see it, and I realized she'd not been to a movie in over three years, in the time since her husband got Cancer and then later passed away. I figured she was long overdue for a trip to the movies, even though it wasn't so easy, as she had to go in a wheelchair due to her medical ailments and her handicap.

We all enjoyed the movie. We felt the Julie Powell character was indeed whiny. We loved the Julia Child part of the story. The story was funny. The food was delicious looking.

Being the age I am, I missed out on seeing Julia Child on TV, I was too young, I believe. The earliest TV cook I can recall was The Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, on PBS. I was there when FoodTV splashed onto the scene and I'd watch it on cable with my then-boyfriend, now-husband. I credit FoodTV for turning my husband on to not just quality grilling but to cooking gourmet meals from scratch. My own preference for baking from scratch can be credited to my mother and maternal grandmother.

When I got married I was worried about learning to cook. My mother had refused to teach me. Truth be told her cooking was limited to a few dishes that my father wanted to eat. Being a bookworm and being used to teaching myself from books I turned to books to teach me. I'm a collector too so next thing I knew, I had a cookbook collection growing. My husband started a tradition of buying me one cookbook of regional cuisine from the location that he went to a business trip to.

Are you surprised we still don't own a copy of Julia Child's french cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"? I'd never desired to cook french food, thinking it too complicated and unhealthy due to all that butter and heavy cream. I was busy enough with Italian food to suit his heritage. And the trip to Paris in 1997 and multiple terrible experiences with rude French people, the worst being yelled at by a waiter in a gourmet restaurant while at a big business dinner, when he accused me of stealing a silver salt shaker, left a poor taste in my mouth for french cooking and everything french!

Scanning my shelves today I did find an unread paperback copy of Child's "The French Chef Cookbook" which is a collection of her recipes from her cooking TV show, a very basic black ink on white cheap pulp paper production. This is the 30th anniversary collection published in 1998 which I see I purchased at Costco. I also own a lovely book "Baking with Julia" which is large, almost being a coffee table book, with gorgeous photographs and authored by Dorie Greenspan. I recall purchasing this from the Cookbook of the Month Club when I was trying to teach myself to bake breads and desserts from scratch.

I'm a sweet tooth so baking from scratch is more my passion. I am disappointed in the low quality taste of store bought desserts and even what is available in local bakeries. The taste of a cake from scratch is nothing like a cake from a box or a cake from the grocery store! Unlike typical American families we do not keep dessert food in our house. Yes, I mean that no dessert is served here after lunch or after dinner. But when we are to have a dessert it is a good dessert. Birthday cakes are almost always made at home from scratch and their taste is so good that all the relatives exclaim in delight and surprise. They are so used to flavorless store bought cakes that they didn't know what a real cake tastes like. I figure that it is better to eat less dessert but when eating it to eat one that tastes good. I also want one with less chemicals which a home baked dessert from scratch gives, and cheaper is good too, again homemade desserts are usually cheaper.

As we exited the movie theatre my husband said we must buy the Julia Child cookbook. I'm curious now about Child's life and will probably read (and may buy) her book "My Life in France". Today I read an article in The New York Times (found on Twitter) about the exploding sales of the Julia Child books.

I'm curious about Powell's book now also and may seek it from the public libary as well, we'll see if I can fit it in to be read. My "to be read" pile is still too high to let much else in. Or maybe since "Julie & Julia" is just $7.99 on Amazon I'll spring for it and help Powell make a little more money off one more sale as a hat tip to her accomplishment for self-education with books, for blogging it all and for landing a book and movie deal to boot. Good for you Julie Powell!

I thought that Julia Child's cooking shows should be released onto DVD for home viewing. After an Amazon search I found out that did happen in 2005! Who knew? Now I want to watch that!


Katie said...

I actually read Julie's blog (it amused me at the time), but I can't seem to get up the enthusiasm to care about the movie. I'd rather watch the real Julia, not what some writer and director thinks she should have been like. I dunno -- I'm tired of Hollywood changing everything just because they want to.

Anyway, my favorite Julia Child cookbook is "The Way to Cook". It is excellent -- it presents master recipes for something, followed by several variations, which of course leads to other ideas about what you might do. I really like books that teach you how to cook, not just a recipe. Nothing is more fun than customizing a cooking style, technique, or whatever to make it est for you. It's the creative part of cooking! (And absolutely necessary for anyone with family members with allergies, intolerences, pickiness, texture issues, etc..!)

Crimson Wife said...

PBS showed re-runs of Julia Child's shows for years. I can remember my mom watching it occasionally when I was a little girl in the '80's.

When my grandma moved into an assisted living facility, she gave me her copy of "The Art of French Cooking". But I almost never use it because the recipes are so fattening.

Lynn said...

Fun, fun post. Thanks for writing it :) I actually have three of Julia's cookbooks (including Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volumes I and II) but rarely use them as I find the recipes pretty complicated and fussy. Which makes Julie Powell's cooking through the book all that much more impressive to me! We had a Julia dinner party the other night which was grand fun, though. Now I'll put the book away for another few years ;)