julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

The Beginning: Part 1

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“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook –  try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” – Julia Child


I have a confession to make. I’m almost 30 years old, and I don’t know how to cook. Don’t get me wrong, I can read a recipe and toss some ingredients into a pot, but let’s be honest…that just means I know how to read; not that I know how to cook. 



 I’ve always loved the idea of cooking, I just haven’t quite mastered the execution. Maybe it’s because I lack the courage of my convictions. When I got married, I had romantic ideas of preparing decadent meals for my husband and hosting elaborate dinner parties in my pumps and pearls. So far, my signature dishes include Soap Burgers, Pizza Flambe and Cranberry Sauce Tarte. (Thank goodness my loving husband Ben has a stomach that’s as strong as his sense of humor.) Now I choose the safer route and do the next best thing – I leave the cooking to the professionals and live vicariously through the chefs on the Food Network.

I love to watch food competition shows, and I am convinced that I could be the Next Food Network Star – if I only knew how to cook. (Darn those pesky details!) I am amazed that there are people in the world who can come up with a meal based on a random assortment of ingredients – no recipe card to lean on for support, just the knowledge of what foods go together and the skill of preparation techniques. How liberating! 


When I heard about the movie Julie&Julia, I was enamored with the idea of it right away. The story of Julia Child’s start in the cooking profession is intertwined with the story of New York blogger Julie Powell’s challenge to cook her way through all the recipes in Julia’s first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (Why hadn’t I thought of this??) My husband and I watched it together and were instantly charmed not only by the storyline, but by the glaring similarities between myself and main character Julie. Both Texas natives; both strong writers who lack culinary skills; both pushing 30 and looking to gain something more from life…and both intrigued by the idea of taking on a challenge.

Long after the movie was over, the idea of the Julie/Julia Project stayed with me. I looked up Julie’s blog to learn more about her experience and found myself wanting to see it done again, this time with a different approach. Julie faced some serious hurdles in her version of the challenge – an unpredictable work schedule, a tiny un-air conditioned kitchen, limited access to supermarkets and ingredients – which led to a general feeling that this challenge was more a race against time than a way to learn how to cook. (Which would give out first – Julia’s supply of recipes or Julie’s sanity?) I felt that there were some great opportunities to extend the education from Julia’s writing to blog readers that Julie wasn’t able to convey given her circumstances.

Jessica (Me)

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Over dinner one night, completely out of the blue, Ben said to me, “Why don’t you take on the Julie/Julia project yourself?” Thinking he was kidding, I laughed it off and said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” Remembering that Julie had celebrated the completion of the project with a visit to the Julia Child Kitchen at the Smithsonian (which we have already seen), I thought it would be funny to up the ante. So I added, “But when it’s over, you have to take us to Paris.” Ben paused, looking thoughtful for a few moments, then smiled slyly. “Okay,” he said. “You’re on. If you make all of Julia’s 524 recipes in 365 days, I’ll take us to Paris.” I laughed. “Paris, Texas?” I asked. “Nope,” he smiled, “Paris, France.” Hm…this was getting interesting.


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7 Responses to “The Beginning: Part 1”

  1. Amanda says:

    Paris??? Surely you can fit one extra person into your carryon luggage! (Ok, probably not, but I wanted to be the FIRST to respond to your fabulous blog!)

  2. Amanda Dale says:

    Glad to see that you are blogging, Jessica! I have been doing it for a few months find it to be a great creative outlet. Look forward to reading about your cooking adventures!

  3. Mary says:

    I LOVE the idea! Can’t wait to hear all about it!

  4. Michael says:

    The site looks great Jess! I’m spreading the word.

  5. Sara B says:

    This doesn’t surprise me one little bit! I can’t wait to follow the adventure!

  6. Emily says:

    I’m so excited to read this! I’m going to live vicariously through you, if that’s ok.:) I also loved this movie and the idea of becoming a wonderful cook. I’m a recipe follower to the nth degree and worry if I vary even a little I’ll screw the whole thing up. You are the perfect person to be doing this, can’t wait to hear all about your adventure!

  7. Barbara R says:

    At the young age of 61, I’m still trying to entice the husband of my youth to enjoy a dinner with veggies as a side…for me the veggies are the main event. No matter what I cook that man, he scurries over to the pantry for something crunchy, salty, and sweet (sweet not being a requirement like the latter two tastes). Rather than waster time cooking, I should just plop down a jar of PB, a bag of rice cakes, and squeeze bottle of Hersheys chocolate.
    Needless to say, I’ll be following your journey through the culinary challenges of replicating Julia’s French Cusine. Then it will be off to Rubio’s for my rice and beans (side orders that is)!

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