Review: Julie & Julia, by Julie Powell

by Rebeca on August 30, 2009

Julie & Julia, by Julie PowellJulie & Julia
by Julie Powell
Back Bay Books/Little Brown and Company, 2005
307 pages
$14.99

I was planning to post this review with my regular ones and keep it in my dry, third-person style, but since it does deal with food (and I am sucker for food memoirs) I thought I would it include it in the Sunday review.

I learned of Julie Powell and her Julie/Julia project when the book was first published in 2005 and  I was reminded of her endeavor when I saw the film crews in my Park Slope neighborhood one day. For those not familiar with the story, Julie Powell in a fit of ennui from her secretarial job decided to cook every recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year’s time and record her adventures in the kitchen in a blog.

The reward to this personal challenge was national recognition, a book and movie deal, and a writing career–a dream come true for many bloggers and writers.

Because I like to cook and eat, I was very excited to read Powell’s book–thanks to Laura of the Book Tree for giving me the opportunity to win a copy.

Yet my enthusiasm soon soured after I read the first few pages, but I plodded on with the hope that Powell would get to what appealed to me–cooking and food. Although she knows how to turn a sentence, my interest wavered when she wrote at length about her childhood in Texas, the discovery of her parent’s copy of The Joy of Sex, the sex lives of her friends and so forth, these anecdotes held very little interest for me.

What I wanted to know was her relationship with food and cooking. Frankly, I was more interested in her bone marrow adventure rather than her job woes or her ovarian problems. When she stuck to cooking I kept reading, but when she meandered away from it, the book was set aside and I started reading something else.

Yet there’s more that didn’t appeal to me about the book and most of it had to do with Powell’s sarcasm and her over-the-top hysterics over cooking live lobsters, preparing aspics, and offal, her cutesy a la Rachel Ray acronym for Mastering the Art of French Cooking became tiring, and cussing out the Great Child. For the most part, much of the food that she writes about seems unappetizing, and I have to consider whether it’s my own personal bias against this Julia Child tome (her later cookbooks appeal to me more rather than this classic one.)

Although I wasn’t engaged with the fodder between the cooking, my kudos do go to Powell—an inexperienced cook—for attempting to master 524 complicated recipes in 365, and preparing meals late into the evening, night after night. That dogged determination to complete her project and not disappoint herself or her “bleaders” certainly merits a publishing and movie deal.

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