Taking a Page from ‘Julie and Julia’

With 2015 fast approaching, plans for New Year’s Eve parties are set, the Christmas trees and decorations are getting ready to come down, and I think the majority of us are hunkering down to withstand the remaining months of winter. With so many things to reflect on this past year and look forward to next year, the tradition of setting new year’s resolutions is well in hand. Many of us are setting new dietary goals or hoping to overcome personal habits, but for me, I’m hoping to accomplish something else entirely. Recently, I had the chance to read “Julie and Julia” by Julie Powell. Some of you probably recognize this title from the acclaimed movie staring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. I’d been wanting to read this book ever since I saw the film and especially since I started this blog. The challenge Julie takes of completing 524 recipes from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 365 days is a huge feat, turning the story into something far beyond just cooking.

reading challengeSo what does any of this have to do with new year’s resolutions? Inspired by the trials and tribulations of Julie Powell, I’ve decided to accomplish my own goal: the 2015 Reading Challenge. Throughout the next year, I’ll be taking on the task of reading 50 books with a wide range of categories. Funny books, books from a beloved author, movies based on books, books more than 100 years old and the list goes on and on. Each book I finish, I’ll share on my blog with the hope of sparking interest in all you book worms out there. By no means is this the same as cooking more than 500 recipes, but for me this is significant since I’ve been meaning to read more lately. With the encouragement from family, friends and all you readers out there, I think this resolution will be one of the best.

With that said, here’s my reflection on “Julie and Julia” and what I took from reading this inspirational story.

julie and julia

For those of you who haven’t watched the film, “Julie and Julia” follows the story of one woman’s journey to complete all the recipes from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” within the span of a year. For each recipe Julie completes, she writes about it on her blog, with the hopes of connecting to other culinary fanatics and fans — sound familiar? From tasting her first egg to boiling lobsters and surviving through aspics, Julie discovers a lot about not only cooking but herself, thus presenting a journey unlike any other to self-discovery and a renewed joy for life. Despite some similarities between the book and film, there are many more entities these two pieces do not share. So before you get the idea that Amy Adams is the twin to Julie Powell, here’s some things to keep in mind.

julie and julia

1. Be prepared for sexual innuendos and offensive language. You wouldn’t guess it from the film — and I don’t suppose they cared to include a lot of it — but much of what Julie writes about compares Julia’s cooking with gratuitous actions. I think it can be best summed up with this quote, “If ‘The Joy of Sex’ was my first taste of sin, ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ was my second.” I don’t think when Julia was writing her cookbook that she realized marrow tasted like “really good sex” or how Ritz a l’Indienne is code for “Bitch Rice.” These phrases almost make Julia’s hateful reaction to Julie’s cooking project understandable. I guess that’s what you get for honesty. Despite these seemingly awkward tidbits, they actually offer a comedic relief to Powell’s inability to maintain much patience while trying to master all these recipes (not that I can blame her). Like I said, just be prepared.

julie and julia

2. Don’t expect to read much about Julia’s history behind her claim to fame. The film took much more liberty in reverting back to Julia’s history than the book, from her first taste of French food in Paris to finally getting her famous cookbook published, and much of which comes from Julia’s book “My Life in Paris.” The “Julie and Julia” book does contain some excerpts from Julia’s life before marrying her husband Paul, but mostly focuses on Julie’s journey through cooking and blogging. I would have appreciated more content surrounding Julia, possibly utilizing the letters Paul and Julia wrote to people during their time in Paris. You don’t really get a sense of who Julia is, despite Julie’s fascination with her. Making connections between two very different points in history between these two strong females may have been more interesting and uplifting at times when Julie’s impatience gets the better of her.

julie and julia

3. Julia Powell vs. Amy Adams. If you start reading this book with the image of Julie as this adorable, sweet wife, think again. Much like the #1 difference I wrote about above, Julie is far from the character portrayed by the loveable Amy Adams. I’m sure the film took a lot of liberty with making Julie come across as more relatable but after reading the book, it feels like a different person entirely. With the book Julie, there’s a bipolar outburst about every other page, much more talk of giving up and not as much of a loving relationship between her and her husband (they later divorced soon after the book was published). Knowing what I know now about the personality of Julie, Amy Adam’s character just comes across as fake — some made up scenario that Hollywood thought would be more appealing to viewers. If anything, I’d much rather of seen Julie as who she really was. We all curse like a sailor from time to time or feel like giving up when all hope is lost. She’s a real woman who was struggling in her search for joy in life and who eventually found it through Julia Child — and frankly shouldn’t of been portrayed as anything less.

Those are just a few of the notes I took from reading “Julie and Julia.” Overall, it is a truthful and honest journey of the human spirit and the unlikely, sometimes crazy things we do sometimes to find ourselves. With that said, here’s a quote I’ll leave you with:

“Julia taught me what it takes to find your way in the world. It’s not what I thought it was. I thought it was all about-I don’t know, confidence or will or luck. Those are all some good things to have, no question. But there’s something else, something that these things grow out of. It’s joy.”

julie and julia

Find a copy of this book for yourself here: http://www.amazon.com/Julie-Julia-Year-Cooking-Dangerously/dp/031604251X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420042295&sr=8-1&keywords=julie+and+julia+book

Image credits: http://www.popmatters.com/article/109477-writer-julie-powell-shares-how-she-cooked-a-blog-a-book-and-a-movie-/, http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/07/food-in-julie-julia-film-movies-amy-adams-meryl-streep-julie-powell.html,  http://www.biography.com/people/julia-child-9246767, http://www.biography.com/people/julia-child-9246767http://www.aceshowbiz.com/still/00001762/julie_julia31.html 

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