Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bon Appetit!

On Sunday afternoon, my sister and I went to see the new movie Julie & Julia. The movie is based on two books, and the screenplay was done by Nora Ephron of Sleepless in Seattle fame. So I settled into my seat expecting a great movie about French cooking.

Boy was I ever wrong!

This was a great movie about writing. It's a study in comparisons and contrasts about Julia Child in post-war Paris, struggling to figure out her identity and what she wanted to do with her life, and Julie Powell, a temp employee in post- 9/11 New York City, struggling to figure out her identity and what she wanted to do with her life.

Julia attended the Cordon Bleu cooking school and then taught French cooking to American women. Later she joined forces with two other women to write a French cookbook for Americans. In the movie we see her struggle to complete the book and then get it published. In the scene where she boxes up her manuscript to send it off to a New York publisher, I felt every emotion she felt too.

Julie graduated from Amherst with a degree in theater and creative writing. Her one attempt at a novel was rejected and in the movie she declared you weren't a writer if no one published your book. The Julie/Julia Project was a blog where she chronicled her effort to cook all 524 recipes in Child's cookbook in 325 days.

The movie's dialogue is brilliant and filled with innuendo that makes the task of boning a duck both a culinary coup and a dirty joke. Some of you will remember Dan Ackroyd's famous Julia Child skit on SNL, and that skit appears in the film.

Mostly, it's a movie about persistence. When Julia Child receives a letter telling her a prospective publisher is declining to go ahead with her book, she reacts with, "Eight years of my life. It just turned out to be something to do, so I wouldn't have nothing to do. Oh, well. Boo-hoo. Now what?"

She was obviously heartbroken but she was also part of the Depression and World War II era and simply met bad times straight on. And like the writers we all know, she took her book seriously and was hurt when passed over for publication and then later for awards.

When Julie Powell learned that Julia didn't like her blog and thought she wasn't being serious in her cooking attempt, she had a meltdown too. But she picked herself up, dusted herself off and cooked the rest of the recipes by her one-year deadline.

In case you aren't familiar with Julia Child, here's a short clip of her explaining about chickens. The voice is for real and she was as imposing a figure in real life as she appears on screen -- six feet, two inches tall.

Have you seen the movie yet? Do you share my enthusiasm? What's your dream and are you working toward it?


Lynn Raye Harris said...

I haven't seen it yet, but want to. I have had Mastering the Art of French Cooking on my kitchen bookshelf for years. I've made a few things. The crepe recipe is so simple! The first time I tried it, I made perfect crepes. And the Nicoise salad is amazing!

I remember when Julie Powell was blogging her way through. I read it here and there, but not regularly. It really took off, I think, when the NYT did an article about her. She wasn't through the book yet, but she was getting close.

Problem Child said...

I haven't seen it either, but I want to. I've heard it's also a testament to Julia as a teacher.

The Smithsonian had an exhibit about her while we were there -- basically a full-scale replica of her kitchen. It was really a normal kitchen, which told me I couldn't blame location for why I didn't cook more. (I'm working on new excuses!)

Playground Monitor said...

I saw her kitchen at the Smithsonian and took photos but they didn't turn out well. This was from her house in Cambridge, Massachusetts and it was normal except for taller counters to account for her height. She would be bent nearly double working over a regular countertop.

And it's not a replica. It's the actual kitchen from her home. When she moved to California to retire, she donated it to the Smithsonian -- all 1200 items from the 14 x 20 foot room. The walls and floor are not authentic, but the kitchen sink is.

And yeah, I'm looking for excuses too tough after Lynn's comment about the crepe recipe, I may be tempted to try that cause I love crepes and even have a crepe pan.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

You can't go wrong, Marilyn! The first time I made them, I didn't have a crepe pan and they still turned out perfectly! The first one was a little thick -- but then I got it right and they were beautiful. A friend who was staying with us at the time was so impressed he bought me a crepe pan. :)

Smarty Pants said...

I'd like to see this, but like most movies, I haven't. It was cool to see her kitchen in DC. Now I'm even more intrigued.

I'd never even consider attempting a crepe. I know my strengths and paper thin sheets of pastry is not it.

Angel said...

This sounds like a really cool movie! I love it when I go into a movie thinking one thing, then find it reveals depths I wasn't expecting.


Liza said...

I haven't seen it yet, but have only heard wonderful things about it.