Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Why Julia? Why, Julie? Why Not Me?

I just finished Julie Powell's book (like 5 minutes ago) (Well more like 50 minutes ago, but I've been obsessively stalking her old blog, website and new blog since I put the book down) (yeah, it's that kind of workday): Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. For those of you who were not inhabitants of the blogospere circa 2003, nor obsessive readers of the Times' Dining section around the same time, this is the book that came of the blog in which a secretary from Queens set out to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Not only does she get all the recipes done -- harder than you might think (taken a look at MtAoFC lately?) and without even the aid of a dishwasher, Kitchenaid mixer, good set of knives, or very intact sense of housekeeping -- but she also gets a book deal.

After my friend Elise read Eat Pray Love , she blogged about it, giving the book a more appropriate title. This is my humble version of that amazing post, because a million times more than the envy I felt while reading Eat Pray Love (yeah, yeah, I've been to Rome, and meditating at 3:30 every morning in an ashram is not my idea of a nice vacation, and sure I'd like to move to Bali and find a wise old healer friend, and then a Brazilian lover, but it didn't eat me up inside or anything) -- Julie and Julia just about killed me.

What a great idea. What an amazing Everest to climb, and without the frost bite and oxygen masks. What an awesome and far more cool trip through culinary school than an actual trip through culinary school.

I realize that Julie Powell suffered in her year. I don't know what it's like to eviscerate a live lobster, to spend a solid week making crepes, to gain 20 lbs in service to your blog, to eat liver and kidneys every day for a week not because you have some weird urge, but rather because that's what week it is, or to have to eat aspic ten different ways -- in January no less. But I'm still wildly jealous -- that she thought of it, that she did it, that she has, in fact, mastered the art of French cooking. Okay, so given the choice, I'd sort of rather master the art of Japanese cooking, but either one would be just fine with me.

Despite my crazy envy, and despite the fact that I didn't totally love the book (it's pretty, um, "bloggy", if you know what I mean; works so great as a blog, but feels grungy and discombobulated dressed up in the finery of a book cover), I also really like the author, who blithely describes finding maggots under her dish rack, decries farmers markets, mocks Alice Waters, and talks about vodka gimlets more lovingly than any of the French food she makes all year. Much as I love farmers' markets and hate vodka, I can't help but feel a fond appreciation for this kind of iconoclasm.

Is there such thing as a Mastering the Art of Japanese Cooking?

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