Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Julie and Julia

Nothing like a little last minute reading that I want to finish before my trip to Spain... less than a week to go by the way. I'm not in freak out mode yet, but the nerves are starting to creep in. To combat my fears that the world will end if I forget something, I am making lists. And lists of lists that I need to make, and cleaning everything like a maniac. When I get tired of that, I am reading like a maniac. I decided last week that if I was going to start Julie and Julia before my trip, I was also going to have to finish it. After all my copy is a hard back and besides my general dislike of hardcover books, it would add way too much weight in my backpack. On the bright side, I weighed my pile of clothes for trip last night and they only weigh 4 lbs! I might make it under 15 lbs. total after all.

So, about the book- despite my mixed feelings at different points during the book, when all was said and done, I was sad to see it end. The basic premise of my latest read, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen is this: Julie Powell is about to turn 30. She is working a string of temp jobs and feeling dismal about the prospects for her life. Then one day while visiting her mother, she picks up an old copy of Julia Child's 1961 classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The seed is planted. Soon after that, the Julie/Julia project is born. Julie decides that she will cook every one of the recipes in a year's time and at the suggestion of her infinitely patient husband Eric, write a blog about it.

The result is an irreverent culinary and emotional roller coaster ride, an often funny, and at the end very poignant account of that year and how it gradually changed Julie's life. I have to confess, there was a point in the book about halfway through, right around the aspics (jelly made from boiling calves's hooves, I am pretty certain I could die a happy woman never having consumed and aspic.) that I was a little bored and wanted to fast forward to the meaty parts already. Enough marrow extracting and botching gellees and hissy fits in the kitchen for me. But I pushed through and I am very glad I did. Looking back I guess I was expecting a neat little plot line that would all tie up at the end, but this was an account of someone's real life and like real life, it had its ups and downs. Like life, there are some boring parts, some fights where you say unkind things to your spouse, some failures, some sludge that builds up in your kitchen drain and spits out of your bathtub. But there are also those delicious dinners and friends and family to stand by you through the whole process and of course those elusive shining moments when it all makes sense.

Seeing that Elizabeth Gilbert recommended this book and thought highly enough of Julie Powell's writing to help her find an agent I had high expectations. I realize this is a little unfair to Julie going in. Elizabeth Gilbert is a lot to live up to. I liken it to going to see a movie that everyone I have ever known has said "You have to see this! It is the best movie ever." There's Something About Mary, for instance. There was so much hype surrounding this movie that when I watched it, I was incredibly critical. I thought there were some funny parts, but mostly I just though, ehh and shrugged my shoulders, not too impressed. Luckily, after my initial skepticism in the early chapters, Julie lived up to the hype. All though the book I was looking for the heart, the meaning of it all. The last chapter sealed the deal. There was one sentence in particular that summed it up. **Warning - spoiler alert** please look away now if you don't want to be spoiled. ** Foul-mouthed, irreverent Julie saying while reflecting on Julia Child's death "I have no claim over this woman at all, unless it's the claim one who has nearly drowned has over the person who pulled her from the ocean." I finished the book last night with a tear in my eye.

Please excuse the crappy book picture. Apparently Amazon has stopped letting you copy their images for your own personal use. How rude.

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