Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, Julie Powell (paperback)
original hardcover title: Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen
From Publishers Weekly
Powell became an Internet celebrity with her 2004 blog chronicling her yearlong odyssey of cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. A frustrated secretary in New York City, Powell embarked on “the Julie/Julia project” to find a sense of direction, and both the cooking and the writing quickly became all-consuming. Some passages in the book are taken verbatim from the blog, but Powell expands on her experience and gives generous background about her personal life: her doting husband, wacky friends, evil co-workers. She also includes some comments from her “bleaders” (blog readers), who formed an enthusiastic support base. Powell never met Julia Child (who died last year), but the venerable chef’s spirit is present throughout, and Powell imaginatively reconstructs episodes from Child’s life in the 1940s. Her writing is feisty and unrestrained, especially as she details killing lobsters, tackling marrowbones and cooking late into the night. Occasionally the diarist instinct overwhelms the generally tight structure and Powell goes on unrelated tangents, but her voice is endearing enough that readers will quickly forgive such lapses. Both home cooks and devotees of Bridget Jones–style dishing will be caught up in Powell’s funny, sharp-tongued but generous writing.
This intrigued me in the original hardcover, but since I only buy books in paperback I’ve been waiting to read it. It’s a lot of fun to read, more of a “memoir with food” than actual food writing…and I hadn’t realized that a much of it came from a blog she was keeping during the course of the “Julie/Julia Project.” That blog is now dormant, but I’ve added her current one on Blogspot to my Google Reader feeds, since I really liked her voice as a writer. Julie’s decision to undertake her Project out of dissatisfaction with her job and frustration over the direction her life is (or isn’t) going sounds a bit like an early midlife crisis, although it’s hitting her at the eve of her 30th birthday rather than past her 40th. And while the outcome may not have been what she expected when she started the Project, she did end up finding some new direction through its process and actual completion – although I think she only did Volume One of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, so she may have a Volume Two of the Project some day. She doesn’t include recipes, as I’m sure they are copyrighted, but describes many of her cooking adventures in enough detail that I don’t think I have any real interest in mastering the art of French cooking myself.