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

Getting to Know Julie

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“I was painted into a corner. I was completely lost — I didn’t know what I was going to do. I wanted to learn to cook … It wasn’t until the project was nearly done that I really understood that what I was trying to do was figuring out a new way of living and finding new experiences in life.” – Julie Powell

 This December, I will turn 30. I’ve never had a problem with birthdays or the idea of growing older, but for some reason, this year feels a little different. (Of course, part of it could be the fact that Ben takes advantage of every opportunity to remind me, prematurely and in exaggerated digging tones, “Wow, you’re thirty! Don’t you feel ooold?”) I’ve lived a third of my life already (yes, I plan to make it to 90, okay?), and more and more I find myself questioning my purpose in life – Why am I here? Who am I, really? What’s my destiny? And then I climb over the pile of laundry in my bedroom and take a nap.

Julie Powell

Before the movie Julie&Julia, I had never heard of Julie Powell, but when I saw the depiction of her on screen, I instantly felt a connection to her. Not because I live in a tiny, filthy apartment in Queens (I don’t) or because I take a crowded subway to a dead-end job (no way), but because of the little pieces of me I saw in her… both Texas natives; both lacking culinary skills; both pushing 30 and both a little lost. Julie Powell and I were both looking for our purpose.

She found hers one night over Stoli Gimlets, when her husband suggested she take on this challenge – this Julie/Julia Project blog thingy – and the next thing you know, she’s on her way to self-discovery and, ultimately, a better outlook on life. Inspired, I looked up her blog to read it for myself and see what kind of wisdom she could share with me, what lessons she had learned from her experience…and to find out why Julia Child didn’t like the Julie/Julia Project. I couldn’t imagine Julia Child not liking anything, except maybe health food.

Amy Adams as Julie Powell

Having been introduced to the sweet Hollywood Amy Adams version of Julie Powell, I was surprised to see that Julie’s blog, while well-written and witty, was not only extremely cynical but was also littered with foul language – distracting and not something I would envision Julia Child to appreciate. But then again, Julie herself said about her on-screen depiction, “I did have to get my head around the fact that someone so perky and sweet and lovely would be playing me, because I’m not particularly sweet.” At least she’s honest.

I was also a little deflated to see that her descriptions of the meals she cooked along the way weren’t very detailed, commenting “It was quite good,” or “The green beans tasted like green beans. But with butter.” The more I read, however, I began to realize that she didn’t elaborate on the parts about food, but rather on the parts about how it impacted her life. It was then that I understood her blog about cooking wasn’t a blog about cooking – it was a blog about her journey of self-discovery in challenging herself to find new life experiences.

I really admire Julie for taking on the task of the Julie/Julia Project. To be honest, if she hadn’t done it, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to give it a try myself. I’m glad the end results have brought her such success: book deals, television appearances, interviews and, best of all, the ability to quit her crummy dead-end job and find her real purpose in life – to be an author.

Would Julie like my blog? Or for that matter, would Julie like me? Now that I’ve learned more about her, I can honestly say that I don’t think she would like either – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Not only would I imagine her to feel that I’m calling a do-over of her culinary victory (remember, I don’t think I can do this thing better than Julie; I just think I can do it differently), but I now find our differences to far outweigh our likenesses.

Julie's Recent Book

For starters, I’ve never had a Stoli Gimlet and I’ve never watched “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – what would we do with our time together? I tend to avoid the kinds of places she likes to frequent, and I think my optimism would clash violently with her signature cynicism. More significantly, while Julie is a self-proclaimed “cynic about the contemporary notion of marriage” as evidenced in her latest book (and for which she has received harsh criticism, but let’s not be completely unoriginal and delve into those sordid details here), I have to side with Julia’s take on it: “The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they’re right if you love to be with them all of the time.” In short, I think my relationship with my husband would really get on Julie’s nerves. But the biggest difference of all? I’m really, really happy with my life.

Who knows where this endeavor will lead? Magazine interviews? I doubt it. Book deals? Hardly. My own show on the Food Network? Fuggedaboudit. More important than any of that, in taking on this culinary challenge I look forward to learning about food, learning about cooking, and most of all, learning about myself.

Is it August 1st yet?
– Jessica

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One Response to “Getting to Know Julie”

  1. Margaret says:

    My sister, Mary Catherine Deibel, is a sucessful restauranteur in Boston (actually Upstairs on the Square is in Cambridge off Harvard Square) and knew Julia well and Julie a little. She loved Julia and spent time in Julia’s kitchen as well as vice versa. I have a few signed cookbooks. But she sure did NOT like Julie Powell. She had a word for her that I won’t write here because, like you, I believe that most of us in this world have a better vocabulary to communicate with. But the cynacism, foul language, and whininess were all a turn off to Cathie. Beyond that, as you too point out, it was all about HER and not about the FOOD – which is what my sister, myself and apparently YOU are all about. Bon Chance with votre projet! And by the way, invite me over for the sweetbreads. I want to witness your realization that they are truly a delicacy!

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