Julia Child’s cookbook inspires this excellent read

Julie Powell is a 29-year-old temp secretary with a boring dead end job, but a firm intention to be someone.

Julie & Julia :

My Year of Cooking Dangerously

By Julie Powell

Little Brown & Co. Pub

Julie Powell is a 29-year-old temp secretary with a boring dead end job, but a firm intention to be someone.

She’s always been a bit of a drama queen, (her aunt calls her Sarah Bernhardt) and one day, while visiting her mothers kitchen in Austin, TX, she discovers her calling. She finds, in her mom’s pantry the 1967 edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Julie is immediately smitten. She says, “ I thought this was what prayer must feel like. Sustenance bound up with anticipation and want.”

Julie takes the book back with her to New York, to their tacky and it must be admitted, dirty little apartment. She makes, Potage Parmentier, (basically Potato soup) from the book and she is hooked. There are 524 recipes in the book, she resolves to cook them, one by one, for a year. First of all, she admires Julia Child enormously. Eric, her husband believes this project will improve their diets, and it will pull Julie out of the boring routine that has become her life.

The recipes are heavy on butter and cream and complicated beyond words. Eric suggests she run a blog so that she is reporting her progress both successes or failures. This whole idea may sound insane to you, or impossibly ambitious.. If you have seen Mastering the Art of French Cooking, then you would be justified on both counts. But now you must meet Julie.

Julie is mercurial, foul mouthed and impulsive. She is also determined and creative. Oh yes and she drinks too much. But she loves her husband and counts on his love in return. Her first project from the book is, Bifteck Saute’ au Beurre and Artichauts au Naturel . . . or Steak with butter sauce and Artichokes. They found it all delicious and she entered her first blog. She had 36 hits on her site and suddenly her life has meaning.

Julie moves on to Filets de Poison Bercy aux Champignons and Poulet Roti; Champignons a’la Grecque and Carottes a’la Concierge. It is not all smooth sailing, as the sink gets plugged up and the power goes off, and their cast-off chesterfield, destined for a friends livingroom, gets stuck in the staircase.

Julie works at her boring job during the day and shops evenings, and they dine very late indeed. Supper at 10:30? (Good food takes time). Eric is both guinea pig and saint.

When she describes removing the marrow from the beef shank, or murdering a lobster, you may think a vegetarian life has its merits. She cooks, sustained by Gimlets and washes meals down with gallons of wine. Her friends have smouldering affairs and broken hearts, but they are always ready to bring a bottle and see what’s for dinner.

This Biography, now a movie with Meryl Streep, is rude and hilarious. I think Julia Child would have approved.

Peggy Freeman is a Red Deer freelance writer.

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