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Becoming Famous Does Work in America, but the French Paradox Does Not . . . ?

  • Aug 5, 2009
  • by
Huh? Why not? After reading about the wondrous slimming powers of French eating in Will Clower's "The Fat Fallacy: The French Diet Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss" and "The French Don't Diet Plan: 10 Simple Steps to Stay Thin for Life," along with Mireille Guiliano's "French Women Don't Get Fat," Michel Montignac's "The French Diet: Why French Women Don't Get Fat" and multiple cookbook dieting diatribe offerings from mega home shopping diva Suzanne Sommers, unsophisticated Americans from the west to east coast want to know if eating stick after stick of butter really will allow you to fit into that fabulous pencil skirt without the corseting muffin-top effect of a good body shaper. Well, here's what blogger and now writer Julie Powell, back in 2002, found out when she took it on the cuff (or hips) for the rest of us.

Deciding that her "government drone" secretarial job did not provide her with enough stimulation, she embarks upon her Julie/Julia Project, a foodie blog where she cooks and comments her way through Julia Child's definitive tome on French cuisine, "Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Volume One (1) (Fortieth - 40th - Anniversary Edition) (Vol 1)." Trust me, Powell did not engage in this yearlong battle with French gastronomy for the sole purpose of discovering that yes, she would put on the pounds. I just made that up. I am not quite sure why the Austin Texas native did it all other than that once she started and realized that she did have a dedicated cyber-audience she had to continue to the bitter end.

Whatever the case, tipping the scale in the wrong direction may seem superfluous when compared with Powell's resulting jumpstart to her own career as blogger, now writer and, once this Friday rolls around, lead character in a Nora Ephron rom-com where the cutely efficient Amy Adams plays her as cozily married and knee-deep in dirty dishes in an apartment where the plumbing doesn't work and the maggots have more than enough unclean prep-time fodder to turn into a healthy swarm of flies. (Ugh--makes you wonder if you could ever be hungry in such an environment, doesn't it?) Powell's blog morphed into "Julie and Julia" a memoir of her year living in Long Island City, trekking to work in downtown Manhattan while whipping up quelque choses francaises in the evening as dictated by the pioneer of all television foodies--the oracle of all food oracles, Julia Child.

I never read Powell's blog. Unfortunately, although the site still exists, the entries are no longer available for anyone's reading pleasure. I guess "Julie and Julia" is supposed to suffice. Sadly, I don't know if it does. The premise while good takes an almost daily food blog and whittles it down to mainstream paperback size. Mixed in are a few italicized stories about Julia and Paul Child--an afterthought of sorts that seems to weakly pull Julie and Julia together as they, both as wives and women, attempt to find `projects' that add meaning and purpose to their respective lives. The result as pertaining to Julie comes across as disjointed with obviously missing pieces that only a daily reading of the on-line journal could rectify.

In addition to the blaring plot holes, Powell's stories about her friends leave much to be desired. I want to read about food--its preparation and the moments it creates as all those culinary smells take over that seedy apartment and convert it into a Mecca of Indulgence--not some goofy `Sex in the City' type hype about being young and living vicariously through a troop of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and/or Miranda wannabes. What the heck! I surely do not want to consume all that butter, but as Julie and her husband, Eric (what a nice guy), did just that for me, I wanted to roll about with the abandon of that Roquefort filling and become lavishly enslaved within Julia's pastry recipe like some perfectly perfumed and rounded odalisque at Topkapi Palace. Allow me this foray into classic cuisine without the intrusive meddling of 21st century melodrama.

Bottom Line: Julie Powell, author of the blog "the Julie/Julia Project" converts her year's work into a memoir, "Julie and Julia," relating her cooking experiences while mastering the art of French cooking ala Julia Child. From a literary standpoint, the book has some holes, evidently the result of attempting to stuff a year's journal into 300 plus pages like so much filling into a diet-sized crepe. Rather than the over exposed descriptions depicting the squalor of Powell's Long Island City apartment, her almost annoying comments regarding her disgust for anyone who isn't a liberal democrat and her disability to interject displeasure without using the `eff' word, more food adventures would have been welcome along with a more definitive notion as to why all this was done in the first place. Powell becomes a little fatter albeit much more famous while she proves that the French paradox remains just that no matter how old you are or where you live. I reserve my recommendation for after I see the upcoming film Julie & Julia [Theatrical Release]. (Added on August 7th: Saw the film which combines this memoir with Child's My Life in France (Movie Tie-In Edition) (Random House Movie Tie-In Books)--see the movie and skip the book.
Diana Faillace Von Behren

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September 27, 2010
You really hit the nail on the head, especially when you say that the book needs a more definitive notion as to why all this (the Julie/Julia Project) was done in the first place. When I was reading the book, I thought the same thing. And I'm someone who could relate to Julie on several levels. So, I could only imagine what everyone else was thinking . . .
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review by . July 22, 2009
Let's say, for example, that you are in your late twenties, living in New York City in a something-is-always-going wrong apartment, and working at a miserable dead-end secretarial job at a government agency. What do you do to stir up your life? Well, cook every recipe - 524 of them - from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I by Julia Child in 365 days of course! And that is precisely what Julie Powell, the author of Julie & Julia, set out to do.       Living in one …
review by . August 11, 2010
Inspiration Sensation: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
Julie and Julia is a true story of a writer named Julie Powell and how she has forever linked her life with that of famous TV Chef and cookbook author Julia Child.  Julie and Julia takes place in New York, in Julie Powell's  small apartment kitchen.  As a writer working in an office job she hates, Julie is longing for more.  In her tiny kitchen, she decides to delve into Julia Child's cookbook The Art of French Cooking.  Her husband talks her into blogging her journey …
review by . September 27, 2010
I had been wanting to read Julie and Julia for a long time. Partly because I saw the movie when it came out last year, partly because I'm a fellow blogger. Last Friday I finally got around to finishing it. There were things about it that I really liked, and things about it that I really didn't. Although the movie was very similar to the book, the book had an undeniable dark streak running through it (as books often do) that was much diluted in the movie.      So, things …
Quick Tip by . June 20, 2010
This is one of the greatest books ever written for foodies. I, myself, being a foodie really enjoyed reading about her struggles and tribulations. Just the concept of this book and her mission was so out of the ordinary.
review by . January 17, 2010
I was surprised by this memoir/homage which I thought would be much more heavily food focused than it was. Obviously food (or its preparation) was the common tie between Julie and Julia, but the book is much more about Julia's quest to find herself through the admittedly odd project to cook her way through Julia Child's cookbook. The book is well-written though I often found myself frustrated with the author who seemed very immature in parts.    All in all a decent read for someone …
review by . August 09, 2009
Julia Child was and always will be an icon in the cooking world. I went to the American History Museum at the Smithsonian and saw the display with her kitchen. I just stood in awe to think of everything that had been cooked there. It was the same feeling that Julie Powell had after she had completed her year long project to cook every recipe in Julia Child's French cookbook and blog about it. I enjoyed reading about her decision and the reactions she got when Julie pursued the project. Challenges …
review by . July 28, 2009
In general, I've become a fan of the memoir -- almost preferring it to fiction if it's well-written enough (I said almost). However, by far my favorite subset of memoir is the "project memoir." The author sets out to do something (think The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World and other books by AJ Jacobs). These books generally give a glimpse into the person's life in the midst of their project, but aren't so entirely self-absorbed.    Julie …
About the reviewer
Diana Faillace Von Behren ()
Ranked #166
I like just about anything. My curiosity tends to be insatiable--I love the "finding out" and the "ah-ha" moments.      Usually I review a book or film with the … more
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About this book


Julie and Julia is a 2005 memoir written by Julie Powell. The conceit for the book was born out of a blog Powell started called The Julie/Julia Project, which chronicles her self-imposed challenge to cook one recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking per day.

As mentioned in the book, the Julie/Julia Project started out of Powell's frustration with her ordinary nine-to-five life in post-9/11 New York. When the blog became popular, Powell was able to sign a book deal with Little, Brown.

The book is now being made into a film written and directed by Nora Ephron. The film is simultaneously also based on Julia Child's memoir My Life in France.

Julie Powell's current blog
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ISBN-10: 031604251X
ISBN-13: 978-0316042512
Author: Julie Powell
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

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