Thursday, January 28, 2010

Literary Bite: Julie and Julia

I saw the movie Julie and Julia when it came out this summer, but I didn’t blog about it then because: a) that was the weekend of the Run of Death; and b) to be a blogger who writes about food and books, blogging about a movie about a blogger who wrote a book about blogging about food? It’s just too much…

But Mer recently lent me Julie and Julia, the book by Julie Powell (supposedly in exchange for my copy of My Life in France…but I can’t find it…I think I lent it out…LLC’s friend, if you’re reading, I’m looking at you!).

Anywho, Julie and Julia is no work of literary genius. Not that I was expecting genius prose - I mean, we all know that the girl’s a blogger.

The book is a quite a bit darker than the movie. People told me I would like the book because Julie in the book had much more character/sass/pizzazz. (Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie a lot. I just wanted to see more of Julia Child than Julie Powell.)

Julie is kind of angry and depressed, and not because she didn’t fulfill her potential to be a great writer (like the film implies). It turns out that in real life, Julie moved to NYC to become an actress, but then never really auditioned, and that’s how she ended up in a crappy temp job. So though the real Julie has more character than the movie Julie, I don’t really like her. I mean, she has hissy fits. Sometimes in public.

Those things aside, I really liked the book. Julie writes about her life in New York, as well as anecdotes from her childhood. As a cook, I really liked her incorporation of recipes in the narrative. Not that she actually gave recipes, but she often described the process of whatever she was making (e.g. “Set the seared slices aside while you beat together three tablespoons of mustard, minced shallots, parseley, garlic, pepper, and the bit of fat from the sauté pan, which makes a sort of creamy paste (256).”) 

My thoughts on French cooking? Not really for me. Sticks of butter my friends, literally multiple sticks.

Julie loves Julia Child. But, unlike Julia Child, Julie does not think too highly of the French. When talking about her 20-lb butter weight gain (!!!), she writes, “It’s all about the “French Paradox,” that much-publicized puzzle of how French people eat all the fatty food and drink tons of wine, yet still manage to be svelte and sophisticated, not to mention cheese-eating surrender monkeys (318).” Touche Julie!

She also makes a surprising number of political comments (for a food-blogger). She works in an office full of republicans, and hates them. That’s always amusing, but kind of out of place in a book about blogging and cooking…I don’t mind, but some people might be a bit put off by that type of thing.

Conclusion? Read it. If you liked the movie, you’ll like the book. But if you haven’t yet seen the movie, read first My Life in France, then Julie and Julia, then go rent the film.

As Julie talked about food she was making, I felt the urge to see her dishes. Here are some examples:

Egg in Aspic:

Cervelles au Beurre Noire (Calf's Brains in Black Butter):

Pate de Canard en Croute:


Boeuf Bourguignon:



  1. ...ummmm what better way to eat calf's brain?

  2. Horrifying, isn't it? I'm a person willing to experiment and try new things, but I draw the line at offal and bugs. I will not eat those!

  3. I read "My life in France" (LOVED it!) and then I watched the movie. I heard from others that "Julie and Julia" just OK, but I have it in my cue to read. Thanks for the review.
    I just made Beef Bourguignon a few weeks ago. It was delicious, but a TON of work.

  4. I enjoyed the movie and have been undecided about the book. I may give it a whirl although the sequel she just wrote does not sound good at all.

  5. newrunner - I was going to make Beer Bourguignon, but then I saw that the recipe had 45 steps, and wimped out.

    Oh, and about her new book!
    My copy of the book has an excerpt from the new book's opening. I read it (obviously), and it seems AWFUL!!! As in, she becomes a butcher, loves hacking up meat, and turns out she was cheating on her husband!!! I just can't support that.

  6. La cuisine française vue par les Américains ! C'est cliché ! Bon appétit !

  7. Mollie - I'm currently reading her new book. Yes, she becomes a butcher, yes she loves hacking up meat, and yes she's cheating on her husband. BUT she's a much better writer and the story is somehow more engaging than the first one was. And she freaks out less in public - if that helps.. ~ MCP

  8. This sums it up brilliantly - thanks for the link!

    I'll let you know what I think of the film :)