Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

May 1, 2012

Summary (from the publisher): With the humor of Bridget Jones and the vitality of Augusten Burroughs, Julie Powell recounts how she conquered every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and saved her soul.

Julie Powell is 30 years old, living in a tiny apartment in Queens and working at a soul-sucking secretarial job that’s going nowhere. She needs something to break the monotony of her life, and she invents a deranged assignment. She will take her mother’s worn, dog-eared copy of Julia Child’s 1961 classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and she will cook all 524 recipes — in the span of one year.

At first she thinks it will be easy. But as she moves from the simple Potage Parmentier (potato soup) into the more complicated realm of aspics and crepes, she realizes there’s more to Mastering the Art of French Cooking than meets the eye.

And somewhere along the line she realizes she has turned her outer-borough kitchen into a miracle of creation and cuisine. She has eclipsed her life’s ordinariness through spectacular humor, hysteria, and perseverance.

Liked:

  • I thought it was amazing that Julie Powell could turn such a random “project” into a successful blog, book deal, and movie. I thought at the most she would be able to start a food gifts company from her apartment, but she did so much more. Hat-tip to her!
  • This book is genuinely funny in places, and I laughed out loud several times. Some of it had to do with the sheer lunacy of the situations being described, and some with Powell’s writing style, which was often good.
  • She made it! She cooked all 524 recipes in 365 days. That’s something to be proud of, considering how easy it would have been to quit. Just reading about some of the things she had to do for those recipes made me 100 percent sure that I would have given up early.
  • I liked that Julie didn’t let Julia Child’s opinion of her project detract from the overall experience. In fact, Julie was rather gracious in saying that Julia’s comments didn’t diminish her feelings about the Julia Child of her mind, the Julia she had created and thought about while working through the cookbook. A lot of other people would have simply been crushed by Julia’s reaction.

Disliked:

  • I cannot believe how filthy Julie’s kitchen was and how she rather nonchalantly described the mess. Sure, she was a bit “horrified” at the maggot infestation, but there were problems long before that! I just wonder why any of her friends would WANT to eat her food knowing the disgusting circumstances under which it was prepared. No thanks! Oh, and at one point Julie wrote something like, “Well, that’s to be expected, considering the amount of cooking that was done.” Um, honey, no. I use my kitchen quite a bit too and have NEVER had maggots or had my feet turn black after walking on the floor.
  • The writing was so overwrought and pretentious at times that it just drew attention to itself. I had to keep wondering if she was an aspiring actress or an aspiring writer.
  • I didn’t care for the blasé attitude towards the 9/11 families she dealt with at work. It wasn’t exactly in good taste to put those feelings in the book — along with the attendant political digs.
  • Julie just doesn’t seem like a person I would want to know or be friends with IRL. There was something distasteful about the way she treated her husband, and though I’m sure some of the incidents were embellished for the sake of the book, I still didn’t like her selfishness and near-constant whining.

Rating:

I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I didn’t have any wild expectations coming into this book. I just wanted to read it because of all the buzz it had received. I really couldn’t fathom a book about cooking being interesting or enjoyable — but a lot of it was. The premise got played out after a while and I could have done without so much of the personal stuff, but on the whole, I found this to be a decent read. I give it 3 stars out of 5.

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