After a such shameful blogging hiatus, I feel I owe my readers–if I have any left– a brief explanation. My absence in October was due to a minor personal meltdown during which I quit my job, dyed my hair, and threw out most of my clothes. My absence in November was due to a two-week trip home to regroup that resulted, not in developing a new life plan as I’d intended, but rather an impromptu trip to Egypt with my mother for an additional two weeks. It was magical, and I got in ample reading on various forms of transport. But now I am back and bundled in Chicago, still clueless as to what my next move should be, but one thing I do know: I have no excuse not to write.
It seemed fitting, therefore, that my first blog entry in two months should be on Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell. It follows one woman’s quest to cook her way through every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I. in a year: that’s 524 recipes in 365 days. It’s fitting that I should write about this book now because Julie is in her late 20s (like me) and in a dead-end job (like I was). She’s given up on her “youthful” dreams of being a New York City actress and is headed toward a meltdown of her own. That’s when her husband suggests she write a blog, and the Julie/ Julia Project is born.
I remember my mother reading Julie & Julia when it first came out, about five years ago now, and how delightful she found it. When a film adaptation was made, I saw it in theaters and came away completely charmed and resolved to read the book. However that resolution waned as intriguing works of fiction bumped Powell’s memoir further and further down my book list. Really though, I think it was just biding its time until the right moment appeared, and that moment was in my childhood bedroom after a ten-hour flight back to reality.
Julie & Julia is a quick, entertaining read with a tone of humorous desperation running throughout that I could often identify with. Julie’s misadventures and successes in both the kitchen and in life gained her a loyal following in the blogosphere; but the book is enhanced with biographical blurbs on Julia Child and tempered with hindsight, which make Julie more sympathetic because, let’s face it, meltdowns and hissy fits are annoying no matter who throws them. Seeing her acknowledge and regret her occasionally poor behavior, however, makes Julie more likable than annoying and her husband more saintly for putting up with it. Her friends and family make for an interesting cast of characters, and watching her attempt to prepare gourmet meals in a decrepit apartment kitchen makes this book worthwhile on its own.
Beyond the quirks and chaos, though, it is clear that the story is truly driven by blind hope and, to use Powell’s own word, rooted in “joy.” And that to a wayward individual like myself makes this a worthwhile read, indeed.