Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Julia and Julie

The movie, 'Julia and Julie", is based on a book, which is based on a true story. Julie, a fan of Julia Child the cookbook author, attempts to prepare all 524 recipes in Julia Child's famous book on French cooking for Americans, within 365 days. (Julia Child's famous masterpiece, entitled "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", was published in 1961.) Julie not only succeeds at her attempt, but blogs about it as well, and becomes a seriously considered writer at the end of her cooking ordeal. At the end of the story/movie/book, a reporter comments to Julie over the telephone that he told Julia Child about Julie's accomplishment and that Julia Child did not seem very pleased with Julie's feat/blog/sudden fame as a writer. All I could think of was why, oh why, did they put that pinprick-deflating-the-balloon comment in the movie? After all, when Julie finished making all of those recipes, Julia Child was in her 90s and probably didn't even know what a blog was. Julia Child died before the book or movie was ever released. Who cares if the comment was true? Why deflate a legend?

Seeing the movie only whetted my appetite for the "real" Julia Child, when I stumbled across a biography about Julia Child a few days later in a bookstore. I decided that had to have that autobiographical book, never mind that I had several boxes of unread paperbacks in the trunk of my car. The book was written in 1997, when Julia was still alive. The more recent movie must have ressurected interest in Julia Child's life and thus sparked interest in the decade old autobiography, which meant a prominent display at the bookstore.

I must admit, I am only about half way through the autobiography, which provides a wonderful background about the history of the times during Julia's life and the familial background of the McWilliams family (Julia's family of origin), all of which helps to understand the larger than life character that was Julia Child. But, I am beginning to see why Mrs. Child might have taken offense at Julie's feat and virtual overnight success.

You see, Julia Child worked on creating hundreds and hundreds of recipes for "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" for eight long years - after learning the French language and graduating as the sole female in her class from a professional cooking course at The Cordon Bleu school of cooking in France, after testing and re-testing hundreds of recipes, after typing and re-typing text and recipes on an old Underwood typewritter, after sending drafts back and forth across the ocean between Europe and America, after courting publishers and receiving rejection letters, after editing and re-editing the monumental manuscript numerous times, and, after publication of the book, promoting French cooking on public television in America, for which she was barely reimbursed for her own costs, and which was held in a makeshift trailer and kitchen, with her husband lugging the equipment for the cooking show, and volunteers helping out behind (or under) the scenes. It was very simply a staggering mountain of work, much of it tedious, which required Heruclean effort and an unwavering belief in success. Julia Child did it seemingly effortlessly, with humor and grace. I say she's allowed to feel less than generous upon hearing of the virtual overnight fame of a young enthusiastic fan, who didn't create anything new in the gastronomic world, but merely did what Julia hoped many Americans would do - use her cookbook and fall in love with French cooking, not necessarily in that order.

1 comment:

  1. I watched this movie with my mother, who got to meet Julia Child when she was alive. She actually suggested that I do something similar to Julie, and bake everything in HER book. I do not have time for this, though I do try to bake what I can, when I can.

    Julia's rejection also bothered me, and I spoke to my mom about it when the movie let out. Her reply was that Julia really was very much like the Julia depicted in the movie, and she couldn't have known what or why she would have denied Julie's request. However, that did not seem to bother her. She merely shrugged it off because Julia Child was a wonderful woman, and she knows that. So, nothing could tarnish her wonderfully bubbly personality and amazing skills as a cook in my mother's eyes. I imagine it should be like that for the rest of the world, even though this twist in the plot of the movie might be a bit of a let-down to those rooting for Julie.