I purchased and read Julie & Julia – My Year of Cooking Dangerously because I had recently watched the film. That film, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, was great and I wanted to find out more about the author behind the story.
The author, Julie Powell, decided to set herself a challenge and work her way through the monster of a cookbook called Mastering The Art of French Cooking which was written by Julia Child and Simone Beck and first published in 1961. Julie gave herself a year deadline and blogged about her progress.
When I heard that the book was based on her blog, I was really excited to read it. I had expected to read a compilation of her posts detailing the efforts of making each of the meals.
I was therefore disappointed to find that this book was more of an extended summary of what had occured during the year, with highlights of specific recipes and the results.
After reading lots of the reviews for this book on Amazon, I discovered that several people were disgusted by the foul language that the author used. I didn’t have any problems with this. Julie is, after all, a young woman, living and working in New York so her vocabulary is bound to be a little bit fruity.
The Good Bits
I thought that Julie did a really good job at describing her home and the type of kitchen that she had to work in, in order to concoct the weird and wonderful menus from Julia Child’s tome.
I could empathise with the dread that she felt about going to work at that dead end job. I was nodding in agreement and sympathy as she talked about the type of people she had to deal with on a daily basis, in her customer service related role.
The Not So Good Bits
The author decided to take it upon herself to carry out this challenge, which was highly intensive, as she had to cook over 500 meals in 365 days. Reading through the book, I couldn’t feel any sense of joy about the journey that she went on.
There was a lot of commentary about the silliness and long-windedness (is that a word?) of certain tasks in some the recipes, which would be understandable because the book is rather old fashioned. There were times when she mentioned that she liked some of the food that she made but there wasn’t enough description about what each meal looked liked, tasted like and whether all that effort was worth it.
Some people were disgusted by a certain insect infestation that Julie described. That wasn’t so off putting to me, as we suffered something similar in our kitchen. (We neglected to wash under the rim of the bin and paid the price!).
What I did find disgusting was the fact that she admitted she didn’t like cleaning (no probs there – who does?) but the fact that she had 3 cats that were allowed to roam everywhere was just nasty. She mentioned something like cat hairs being on kitchen counters and untensils. That is just plain wrong – Yuk!
Once she had completed her challenge, she still didn’t seem that happy. I suppose that could be because it didn’t really change that much in her life at the time. Again, she made the whole thing sound like a bit of a downer.
Should You Read This Book?
I am glad that I read this book because I got to find out a little bit more about the author. She doesn’t try to pretend that she is perfect or easy to live with (as her long suffering husband would certainly testify to), or that the task of cooking all these meals was easy. It wasn’t easy. She wanted to give up on several occasions. It was just a shame that she didn’t seem to get that much joy from her accomplishments, though she did end up with a book deal, which led to the film, so I hope that she is at least happy about that. She escaped the soul destroying job she had and is now a full time writer.
Reading this book has actually motivated me to find more out about the catayst for this project. I want to know more about the larger the life character that was Julia Childs. I will definitely be looking to read her biography.
Give Julie & Julia – My Year of Cooking Dangerously a chance. It is a light and easy read and it may even spur you on to start your own cooking challenge. Bookmark this blog, as I will be starting a cooking challenge of my own. And yes, I will be blogging about it right here.