Friday, September 01, 2006

Book Review - Julie & Julia

On the recommendation of someone on an e-list I'm on, I picked up Julie & Julia from the library. It's the story of a young woman's one year challenge to cook all the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in a tiny, actually two different tiny, kitchens in New York City.
The premise is fascinating. I really enjoy books about cooking but I also enjoy the "human interest" angle. Julie Powell does a great job of charting her journey through the cookbook. Some of the challenges included finding the ingredients, working fulltime while doing this challenge and having a very small kitchen with a limited number of tools to work with.
One of the most interesting sidelines was that she started this challenge in about 2002 (I'm guessing from some of the dates mentioned). One of her friends told her about a new thing on the internet - a web log, or blog. So Julie was one of the first to start a blog. It charted her progress through this challenge. She was amazed at the interaction she had with the readers of her blog, including gifts being sent from some of them.
The only caveat I have about this book and the reason I would hesitate to recommend it is the problem with the language. She uses a lot of profanity; I found myself skimming just to skip the profanity without missing the story. If you are sensitive to swearing in a book, I wouldn't recommend it. Sometimes books have a limited amount of profanity; it's little enough that a person can ignore it. This one has quite a lot.
I'm always disappointed in books that contain a lot of profanity because I have younger teens at home who would probably enjoy the story but who I would prefer wouldn't be exposed to that level of profanity. They are, of course, going to encounter it throughout their teens but we hope that we can keep it in limited quantities.
One of my favourite, in a squeamish sort of way, stories from her cooking challenge, is the story of how she dealt with a live lobster in a recipe that called for killing it with a meat cleaver rather than boiling it. Julie has a great way of writing that helps the reader visualize exactly what is happening!
I also really enjoyed her growing understanding of her relationship with her husband. They married early, in a world that often doesn't value young marriages, and she reflects on their relationship throughout the book, especially as they go through this challenge together. My favourite quote comes as a part of this growing relationship:

"He was my partner. It occurred to me, as I beat my rebellious sauce into submission, that my husband was doing more than just enduring this crazy thing I'd gotten myself into, doing more than being supportive. I realized that this was his Project, too. Eric wasn't a cook, and... he only cared about JC [Julia Child] because I did. And yet, he had become part of this thing. There would be no Project without him, and he would not be the same without the Project. I felt so married, all of a sudden, and so happy." (p. 174-175)

In a world that often undercuts and devalues the relationship between husband and wife and where one partner often leaves a marriage to "find her/himself", I thought this was a wonderful tribute to how marriage should truly work.

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