Julie & Julia Review - To Cook or Not to Cook
by Julie Powell
Published in 2005
I watched the movie Julie & Julia first that starred Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. Honestly, can you go wrong with Meryl Streep? I ended up really enjoying the movie and only recently discovered that it was based on a novel when I stumbled upon it at a bookstore. I am so glad I did because while the movie was carried by the strong performances of the lead actresses, I learned that they didn’t fully capture the humor behind Julie & Julia that is in the book. Even the title, Julie & Julia, My Year of Cooking Dangerously is something I can relate to way too easily.
The book begins with Julie who is a married young woman approaching 30 who feels like she is doing nothing with her life. Stuck in a dead-end job in a crappy apartment and being told she has fertility problems, she is experiencing an existential crisis. How many of us can relate?? When she finds her mother’s old French cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she sees this as a beacon of light to do something different that she can only hope will magically change her life. She decides to start a blog and share her experience trying out all 524 recipes in the cookbook, which she intends to complete in one year’s time because if the author Julia can do it, so can she… right?
Starting off seems easy enough as her first dish is a creamy potato soup that she shares with her husband, who is only too happy to be the guinea pig in all the food tasting (even if that means he also has to do all the dishes in the destroyed kitchen). Taking this day by day, she continues working during the day, to go to the grocery store in the afternoon and go home and make either an extremely delicious dish or one that is easily ruined with her efforts. There are times when the day feels like a complete success, when she replicates a dish so perfectly and can share with her husband and friends and she feels like she’s on top of the world. Then there’s the days when her work day is hard, and she comes home already grumpy, only to discover after 12 failed attempts that poaching eggs in wine is nowhere near as easy as she hoped. It also begins impacting her marriage, as there are times she is snapping at her husband for telling her to give this all a rest as it is clearly stressing her out… as if she isn’t hearing enough from her mother calling her a maniac for doing this.
Soon enough, Julie starts developing quite the following of fans on her blog, some even recognizing her on the streets. She begins getting picked up by CBS Evening News, LA Times, and Newsweek to write segments on what they call the Julie/ Julia Project as she is only less than 20 recipes away from completing all the recipes in the cookbook. She even gets contacted by the New York Times. As she faces her final dish, duck, she gets a call from a reporter who interviewed Julia Child to learn that she hates Julie’s blog. It almost makes her want to give up but then she realizes she was doing this project for herself and not for Julia. After a year of trial and error in the kitchen, Julie cooks her last dish and eventually becomes a writer.
Final Rating: 8/10
I enjoyed this book way more than I was anticipating I would. I love to have “reading breaks” which for me is when I finish reading a book that was very character and plot heavy that just emotionally and mentally drains me and I just need some light-hearted and easy reading to put some sun in my life and warmth in my heart before I move onto another book that crushes my soul… which is why I need reading breaks between each Game of Thrones book. This was like my perfect, ideal reading break book. It actually reminded me a lot of Confessions of a Shopaholic and Diary of Bridget Jones.
It was humorous and relatable and fun to read. Julie herself reminded me of Bridget Jones where she is just trying to do something about her mess of a life and ends up in the most ridiculous situations. I found myself laughing a lot during the book, especially in the scenes when Julie would try cooking a new dish and just shared her thoughts and commentary. It reminds me a lot of when I was first learning how to cook and even me now when I try cooking something out of the ordinary and then wondering how I could mess it up when the recipe picture looks so perfect. I couldn’t stop laughing at when she had to cook eggs back to back 50 million different ways even though all her life she hated eggs. If you can’t relate to how much butter makes everything taste better, then this book might not be for you.
I also love the idea of this project as a chance to do something out of the ordinary for Julie. I know what it is like to get caught up in the routine of life and feel like you are doing nothing with your life, and I like that she chose something that was strange and weird and completely out of the ordinary for her, yet it worked. Maybe my own next project is to cook through a cookbook and blog about it… I am sure my husband would be thrilled even though our waistlines would be less than impressed. Even though at the end of the project, it’s not like her life magically changed overnight, but it instilled in her a confidence that she didn’t have before. She always viewed herself as a failure of a 30 year old woman and always afraid that her life will never improve. By cooking chicken and kidneys and livers and an entire duck and countless other recipes, she realized that she never thought she could do those things either yet she did. So after this year of cooking, she doesn’t have a new life, but she does have a new outlook on life.
Overall I would definitely recommend this book because it’s just so relatable. I love the honesty behind Julie and how when she has this terrible day or messes up something in the kitchen, she’s just sitting in front of her oven sobbing over literal spilled milk. I know we have all been there at one point… Thanksgiving immediately comes to mind. I also loved that even after Julia didn’t like her blog, she realized she couldn’t take it personally because she was happy and loved what she did. The main problem I have with this book is that I can’t be Julie’s friend in real life… but if anyone is planning on cooking through a cookbook and needs testers, let me know!