Julie and Julia: a book of profanity, hilarity and insanity

Julie and Julia Book

Julie and Julia is a memoir by the very Julie of the title, Julie Powell, and is aptly subtitled ‘My Year of Cooking Dangerously’. Julie Powell is ‘pushing thirty’ (as she is so infuriatingly often reminded), living in the crappiest of crap apartments in New York and barely coping with the mind-numbing inanity of her secretarial job. She is bored, depressed and quickly becoming fearful of how quickly time is slipping away while she continues to do nothing of note or satisfaction…but while on a parental visit to Texas, she stumbles across one of her mother’s very old and majestic-looking cookbooks, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, by Julia Child. And suddenly…the project is born.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

The Book:
Mastering the Art of French Cooking. ” First edition, 1961. Louisette Berthole. Simone Beck. And, of course, Julia Child. The book that launched a thousand celebrity chefs. Julia Child taught America to cook, and to eat. It’s forty years later. Today we think we live in the world Alice Waters made, but beneath it all is Julia, 90 if she’s a day, and no one can touch her.

The Contender:
Government drone by day, renegade foodie by night. Too old for theatre, too young for children, and too bitter for anything else, Julie Powell was looking for a challenge. And in the Julie/Julia project she found it. Risking her marriage, her job, and her cats’ well-being, she has signed on for a deranged assignment.

365 days. 536 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen.

How far will it go? We can only wait. And wait. And wait…..

The Julie/Julia Project. Coming soon to a computer terminal near you.

The Story

I found the true story of Julie’s absurd endeavour to cook her way through an entire cookbook to be funny, touching, inspiring and easily related to. She cooks and she blogs and that’s all there is to it. But her misfortune, her tendency to be melodramatic, her constant hysteria and the absurdity of her life make her story so very readable. Being a little bit overdramatic myself (only very occasionally, of course…), I couldn’t help but envision myself as Julie during her tantrums, throwing cookware and sobbing irrationally. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed the book so much… I saw a lot of my own character flaws in Julie and the fact that she managed to channel hers into a book-worthy project is comforting to me; she gives me a little hope when in the midst of one of my ‘Oh Lord, I’m Too Insane For Life’ panics. I loved the book, I loved Julie and I loved her journey. I was at once entertained and inspired and what a wonderful combination that is!

The Writing

I can say without exaggeration or hesitancy that this book is the funniest I’ve ever read. I found it so amusing in fact that I began to attract the stares of strangers; while reading it in coffee shops and waiting rooms, I would suddenly burst out in hysterical laughter and be unable to control myself…I think you can imagine just the kind of sideways glances that I received. Julie Powell’s writing is a style of its very own: shockingly profane, sidesplittingly witty and endearingly self-deprecating. Every page contains half a dozen expletives but I didn’t find it at all vulgar, simply expressive. You cannot help but laugh out loud at some of the things she comes out with. The entertainment value of her writing however, is not its only appeal; Julie writes fluently, effectively and with a firm understanding of the conventions of good writing. In my humble opinion, Julie Powell achieved the ultimate balance between colloquial, flexible expression and intelligent, well-constructed writing.

My Conclusion

I loved this book but I don’t think it’s everybody’s cup of literary tea. I personally found it to be the perfect antidote to my cripplingly foul mood and was simultaneously uplifted, amused and inspired. But given my twisted sense of humour and my ability to relate to her insanity and melodrama, I can acknowledge that I may have enjoyed this book more than the average reader might. Nonetheless, I do recommend it as the perfect cure for a bad mood and as a surprisingly inspirational read.

Julie and Julia Film

Fun Facts Just For Fun

There is now (as you probably already know) a movie based on this book, starring Amy Adams as Julie Powell. My two fun facts are:

  1. In the book, Julie mentions Meryl Streep in passing, who eventually played Julia Child in the movie.
  2. In the book, Julie Powell also mentions in passing Stanley Tucci, who eventually played Julia Child’s husband, Paul, in the movie.