Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

You know what the thing is? I should really cut the bitching about all the work I have to do. Because it IS a lot of work, I DO always have SOMETHING waiting to be done, and EVERY bit of it is a drag, but I still have hours to sit and read and, today, cook. Appropriately, too.

Though actually, this week, following a few conversations with my mom about “after high-school plans,” I find myself REALLY looking forward to my gap year. Yes, I’m taking a gap year- but I’m graduating a year early, I feel like I deserve it, and I really don’t want to start college now. I want time. I want to go backpacking through Europe with five dollars to my name. Or something like that.

New resolution: embrace challenges. To me, this specifically means that when I see something completely kickass awesome online, I won’t go, “Wow, that’s cool. Whoever made this has some serious talent.” Instead, I’ll go, “I wonder how that was done. I bet I could do that- I have hands, don’t I?” Because, really, that’s all it takes. And some supplies. I need to stop being afraid of supplies I’ve never used before.

Yes, I am actually sickeningly optimistic right now. I really just want to finish school. In the meantime, I decided to reread a book I knew would put me in a good mood- I like it so much I actually purchased a copy.

Oh, another thing before I get started; my mom read my Alice review and told me, as I kind of already knew, that what I’m writing aren’t really reviews- they’re kind of details of my emotional reactions to the book. But frankly, I don’t feel the need to change that. If anything, it’s probably more interesting- call me a hypocrite, but I don’t even read that many review blogs. What I have here is more personal, and isn’t that a bit more enjoyable to read? Anyway.

So, who here’s seen the movie? I love the movie! The movie definitely puts a more pleasant spin on things than the book does. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Julie & Julia is a memoir by Julie Powell about the year she turned thirty, when she decided (rather spontaneously, actually) that she was going to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume I” in a year.

542 recipes.

365 days.

To put a spin on things- to document, to make it substantial- Julie decided she would write about her culinary forays on a blog, called “The Julie/Julia Project.” It took a bit of time, but it soon became a sensation, with regular followers commenting and discussing and giving input, and even making donations and sending anonymous packages and other creepy stalker things.

So, let’s talk about the movie: I saw the movie first, and I just went on a Julie/Julia bender. I read the book, watched a bunch of old French Chef episodes, watched the movie three or four more times, and more after that, and I’ll probably watch it again sometime this week. I don’t know what it was about the movie that got to me so strongly, but after reading the book I have a bit of a better idea. And if you’ve read the book, this might sound just a little bit ridiculous.

I find the story very inspirational. Reading it literally makes me want to get up and do things, and that’s happened both times. Just watch, Julie & Julia is going to become my feel-good reading material of choice. It’s ridiculous. Part of the reason it’s so crazy is because, from an objective standpoint, if you read the book, take in everything that happens over the year (because the movie was mostly about the food; the book is about the year, where food happened to play a hefty role), and the way she handles every frustration- she didn’t actually seem to be enjoying herself. Yet at the end, she attests that the experience, that Julia, has changed her life, and it’s clearly a mark of my naivety that I don’t entirely see how. My best guess is that she’s been inspired to better living, the same way I have.

You know another thing? She didn’t seem that likeable. I mean, she was by no means a horrible person you should hide your children from, of course she’s not, and she’s actually probably a fine person. I suppose what I mean is that I doubt she and I would get along as friends. Okay, this is absolutely not coming out the way I mean it to. She’s just very different than me, and if it had been me deciding to do an insane project while working an insane job at insane hours, the book would probably be a little differently. Actually, there would probably not even be a book, because I’m not as stubborn as she is and would have given up. She actually makes a point of this in several places, citing previous times in her life when she made terrible decisions and then refused to quit, despite being miserable, and everyone in her life urging her to just quit already. She’s very stubborn. She also whines a lot. But so do I. I think I’m going to end this trail of thought now, because it’s not serving the purpose I wanted it to serve.

Julie Powell is not a quitter.

Anyway, after reading this book- well, while reading this book, I very much desired to cook. I do like to cook, and bake, and I like food a lot (this book is more enjoyable if you’re a foodie) and especially chocolate. I have a massive sweettooth. In face, I’m pretty sure I have sweet teeth. Thirty-two of them, to be exact. And a bit of the tongue as well. So it was only fitting that I broke my kitchen vigil with this recipe for chocolate-orange cheesecake. Those came out of the oven, but I haven’t tried them yet. But it’s interesting, because when we were shopping for the ingredients we ran into several hurdles; we were missing exactly three of the eight components of this dessert: almond flour, orange extract, and coconut (which I actually passed up because I hate coconut). My mom took that moment to decide that this was probably a good time to return home, check the recipe, and maybe come back for ingredients later, but I didn’t want to. I said I could compensate for the missing ingredients, and so I did. Instead of coconut, I put graham cracker crumbs in the crust. Instead of almond flour, I used regular, with some extra brown-sugar to make up for the lack of sweetness. I bought two oranges and zested them. The batter tasted awesome. I do hope they came out well, you know, if only so I can be right.

See, I can blog about food, too.

Really, though, I love this book. I’m in a good mood for having read it. It was clever, funny, gross (one word: maggots), and I really have to mention here, but Julie Powell has a serious way with words! See, there’s something about writing which I’ve noticed; it’s not about bringing out your scariest vocabulary to give the idea that you’re one of the elite. There’s an amount of understatement that, when used effectively, lulls your reader into a zone of comfort so they don’t even realize how thoroughly your words are massaging their minds. It’s about choosing exactly the right word for exactly what you need. It’s a gift.

Everybody read this book. Watch the movie. In no particular order.

Next up: a classic, and a V-recommended. The library is one of my dearest friends.

Dear Julie: If you’re still in the blogosphere and you ever see this, please don’t take offense. I’m just a naive book blogger whose gimmick is saying the first thing that comes to her mind. Organization and reason aren’t part of the game. I really did find your book inspiring, and it caused me to make delicious cheesecake.

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Published in: on February 4, 2011 at 10:49 pm  Comments (4)  
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