What’s Cooking with Julie & Julia

Meryl Streep

There’s been loads of ink spilt on the foodie flick Julie & Julia. Indeed, I may well be the last food writer on the planet to weigh in on the film. If you’ve been out to lunch, this is the movie where Meryl joyously channels Julia Child and Amy Adams has the unenviable task of attempting to match her on screen as Julie Powell, whose claim to fame is her highly successful blog-turned-book Julie & Julia, which chronicles her kitchen adventures as she ploughs through the recipes in Child’s classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Lots of snarky stuff bandied about regarding Ms. Powell on the web and elsewhere. I don’t quite get all the meanness and I’m not alone.  Dianne Jacobs neatly sums up all the whining on her blog Will Write for Food. It seems to center on the fact that Julie is neither a chef nor a writer before she embarks on her online project (some may sniff she isn’t either of these things now). Could, um, jealousy be at work here? Just a guess. Regardless, there’s no denying her admittedly gimmicky conceit — and its popularity — helped to bring Julia Child’s story to the screen. Not a bad thing, folks.

Could the talented Ms. Streep have carried a bio-epic on the entertaining Julia Child on her own? You betcha. Would it have put bottoms — and young ones at that — on movie theater seats? Debatable. Regardless, while I agree that it would be great if seriously good food films like Food, Inc. and Food Stamped got the kind of attention this movie has, at the end of the day, it’s a Nora Ephron vehicle people. Relax and enjoy a delicious romp.

Here’s what I’ve been chewing over since leaving the theater: Both these women found themselves through food, pursued their passion for cooking with great gusto, and married this obsession with a burning desire to write. Both showed courage and determination in reaching their goals despite setbacks.  Both did time in boring government gigs and were supported by kind and loving hubbies. Neither of them had children. I wonder if either would have achieved the recognition they earned if they’d had kids in the kitchen.

What do you think? Oh, and there’s one more takeaway message from this movie: Butter is a glorious thing.

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8 Responses to “What’s Cooking with Julie & Julia”

  1. MP Says:

    Fascinating woman, Julia was. Naturally, after the movie, I was interested in finding out more so did the usual wikipedia/google look-up. Ran across an interesting quote in Ms Magazine a few years ago that supports your thesis that success came to these women because they did not have children:

    ‘Does she regret not having children? A smile graces her face. “I think it would be nice to be a grandmother. But, no, I don’t miss them. I wouldn’t have had the career I did if I’d have had children.”‘ Read more at: http://www.msmagazine.com/june03/smilgis.asp

  2. JCN Says:

    Really enjoyed your comments on the movie and looking forward to seeing it myself.

    I read the book, ‘Julie and Julia’ a while ago and never once did I get the impression that Julie Powell was promoting herself or even considered herself either a professional chef (or an expert home cook) or a writer. For me, the power of her book was all about Julie discovering her ability to do things she’d never expected. Julia’s recipes were no more – or less – than the vehicle that enabled this discovery for her.

    As you can probably guess, I think her detractors are being ridiculous. I enjoyed following her project very much and in fact as a non-American, I discovered Julia Child through it.

  3. Melanie Haiken Says:

    Saw the film with my two teenage daughters, and just had to laugh at your comment about whether a Julia Child biopic would have drawn them to the theater. Not! For them, the draw was Amy Adams, beloved from Enchanted et. al, and Meryl Streep, newly hip thanks to Mama Mia. But what did they take away? Exactly your thoughts; that both these women found themselves through a love of and devotion to food and cooking, talents which they then lavished on their friends and family. The cooking channel’s been on nonstop ever since….

  4. molly Says:

    Your observation about the kids is a good one. It seems that for most women it takes a lot of conviction and a fair amount of benign-neglect parenting to write, much less create a career as a writer, with kids around. The current style of intense parenting (I’m not judging, just noting) certainly adds challenges. I’ve made a real point of forcing my son to learn to entertain himself! But it’s more than just the active attention of physical care-taking, isn’t it? The emotional and psychological energy that goes towards kids rather than creative endeavors, as well as the ability to singularly focus on something for very long are, perhaps, the larger impediments to which Julia referred as referenced in the above comment.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Well said, Molly.

      Reminds me of my screenwriter friend — not at all a helicopter hovering parent — who says when she’s driving to some hugely important storyboard meeting where all the big wigs will be ready to pounce on some detail or other she’s often not thinking about how she’ll manage a demanding crowd but mulling over whether what she packed in her kids’ lunches represents a balanced meal…emotional & psychological energy indeed.

  5. Anna Says:

    I’m so busy with my every move being dictated by my 2 1/2 year old sweetie pie, that I’m kind of out of the loop on current events. I can breeze through a farmers’ market, but can’t sit quiet in a movie theater just yet. I’ll catch up on movies soon. And, this will be one of my first choices. Nice article. I Enjoy reading your blog.

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