Thursday, September 17, 2009

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously

By Julie Powell

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously is like a very, very rich dessert.

What, you didn’t think I could review a book about cooking without resorting to a lame food simile, did you?

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously is Julie Powell’s account of her attempt to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. As I said before, it's like a very, very rich dessert a dessert I wouldn’t normally order, but I got it for free1 so I dove in with enthusiasm. And it tasted pretty good.

But even as I ate it, I felt vaguely guilty. Being a supremely rich dessert, it had no nutritional value; it was mainly fluff, really.2 And as I scarfed it down, the richness started to get to me, and each bite got just a little harder to swallow. This didn’t keep me from finishing the dessert, naturally, but when I finally did polish it off, I was left with a mild feeling of queasiness.3, 4

I have the feeling that this was supposed to be a gourmet dessert. You know, the kind they talk about on Top Chef, the kind with complexity and nuances and layers. Whatever. When foodies start talking like that, all I hear is Swedish chef-style “Bork! Bork! Bork!”-ing. Frankly, all those subtle nuances go right over my head (or over my tastebuds).5

All of which is rather ironic, since I just used a simile to describe my impressions of the book. Bah.6

Similes aside, Julie and Julia rests firmly in the category of “guilty pleasures.” Powell’s madcap culinary adventure is often funny, and equally mouth-watering and repellant. (brains, anyone?) It wanders much too often away from the food, which is where the book is at its best, and it's way too long, but it was generally fun to read. It didn’t change my life. I didn’t learn any life lessons. I’m okay with that. Every now and then, a little indulgence is a good thing.

Readers should note, however, that Powell curses a lot and holds some moral views that really bugged me

Footnotes for the symbolically challenged:

1 I actually won it in a GoodReads drawing!

2 This book is a fun read, but lacks real substance.

3 Powell speaks very frankly about herself and her friends and family, which makes for some juicy reading but left me feeling vaguely uncomfortable, like maybe I have no business knowing this much about people I don’t really know (I call it the “TMI Syndrome,” but I think this is becoming an increasingly rare condition in this day of tell-all blogs and reality TV exhibitionism).

4 Plus Powell is awfully annoying sometimes.

5 I am fairly certain that Powell was trying to write a book with deep meaning, weaving Julia Child and cooking with the events of her own life to make very astute observations about life, but I didn’t feel like taking the time to figure any of that out. For crying out loud, Julie Powell, you’re a self-proclaimed “government drone,” not Shakespeare!

6 Hence the footnotes, to atone for my hyprocisy.


Lula O said...

This review is hysterical! I was grateful for the footnotes, as the juicy nuances were going over my head too. :D

Although, I was hoping to hear about liver and bone marrow juice. How come you didn't include any of those healthy snack type of recipes? Certainly know one can suck the gelatin out of cow bones like the French.
(Oh, I think I'm going to hurl just thinking about it.)

Great review!

Stephanie said...

I think I may be turned off to French food forever. All those strange body parts...and they eat them!