Julie & Julia

Brace yourselves, folks; it’s another food memoir. We all know how I feel about food memoirs: inappropriately excited. When I decided to rent Julie & Julia over Thanksgiving 2010, I really didn’t expect to watch it twice a day, everyday, for four days straight. No really, that wasn’t my intention! But it happened anyway. That January when I came back to school, I was having a bad day and I plopped my now-owned copy of the movie in to feel better. That was the day I started my food blog (www.signaturesabrina.com). Only back then I called it Beurre Et La Viande, because seriously what the hell is better than butter and meat? Nothing. So Julie owed it to Julia for giving her a renewed sense of hope in life, and I owe both of them for my sense of utter shame, hope, accomplishment, and adventure in the kitchen. Let the shitty times come my friends, for when that damnable dish turns out just right, you’ve won the day.

I can’t believe it took me this long to read the book, but here goes.

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So let’s just get one thing straight. I was raised in a household where cleaning the kitchen is a nighttime religious ritual. I kid you not; my mother will clear out everything and spend an hour or two scrubbing every last millimeter of available surface. She once came to my apartment in college and spent an hour washing my kitchen sink. WHO WASHES A SINK?

It sounds intense, but I actually like cleanliness. If I have to eat in a place that seems more sticky than not, I’m not a happy camper. I also hate cats. Sorry to all the cat lovers out there, but they glare at everything and being around one for more than 5 minutes would cause my throat to close up, my eyelids to swell up like ping pong balls (trust me), and possibly death. So every time Julie discusses the fact that her countertops were coated with an inch-thick layer of dust and cat hair WHILE she’s cooking these buttery dishes of epicurean bliss, a part of me crawled into a dark hole of denial and shivered. Let’s just pretend Julie didn’t find maggots in her kitchen while she was making Petits Chaussons au Roquefort. Let’s seriously just pretend that NEVER happened.

Julie from the movie is very different than Julie from the book. For those of you who haven’t seen or read it, movie-Julie is sweet and a little quiet but funny-ish and cute. Book-Julie is a hardcore masochist with a dry sense of humor, a borderline obsession with Buffy, and a foul mouth. I personally like them both. While I don’t think book-Julie, who happens to be the real Julie Powell, is the world’s best author, I was swallowed whole by the story. It must be kept in mind that I am a foodie and self-proclaimed carnivore and I could read and write about food all day and never be unhappy. Some of my happiest times are spent perusing recipes and planning menus. My mother laments the clean-up, my father laments the fact that I raid his stash of good wine to slop it into frying pans, my friends love me.

If you’re not a hardcore foodie who understands that both love and hate can blossom simultaneously in the kitchen and that the best things ever are those involving copious amounts of meat, butter, and wine, this is probably not the book for you. I, in fact, match up pretty accurately with Julie’s description of her husband’s food expectations, “…the idea of dinner without animal flesh gets him a little panicky”. It does drone on an awful lot about the recipes…in fact, if you cut out all the cooking bits from this 307-page book, you’ll find yourself with about 100 pages of crazy friends, foolish drinking (ain’t no shame in that, ya’ll), and the best goddamned husband ever. I can only hope my husband will put up with me when I sink down to the floor, covered in flour and screaming at bone marrow. Not just put up with, but encourage and help and endure. Julie Powell, you lucky lady.

It’s a fun, fast, and mouth-watering read. As always, I was inspired by every recipe in the book. I’m not a fan of liver or brains, but when Julie describes coating them in flour and wine and frying them in butter, holy shiitake mushrooms do they sound good! I figured I should stick with something relatively simple though, so I went for Homard a L’Americaine. Basically, you kill a lobster and set it on fire. The professionals call the process Flambé. That adventure I shall post on my cooking blog, but let me tell you…

If you can set a pan on fire on purpose AND not burn the house down AND have the dish turn out to be utterly mind-blowing, you’re going to feel like you’ve just conquered the world. Therein lies the beauty of Julia Child’s discoveries in the kitchen, and Julie Powell’s adventures in the kitchen, and my own episodes of culinary madness; Sometimes, you can conquer the world.

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