Julie and Julia Review
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It all started when Julie Powell, a New York transplant working a meaningless secretarial job for a government agency, was first informed that she was “pushing thirty.” At that point, something in Julie snapped. Searching for something, she found herself turning to an unlikely companion: statuesque chef Julia Child. And with her mother’s yellowed and neglected copy of Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in hand, Julie began The Julie/Julia Project—a year-long quest to prepare each and every one of the 524 recipes in the book.

Encouraged by faithful readers of her Julie/Julia blog (otherwise known as her “bleaders”), Powell rushes home from work to slave in her cramped Long Island City apartment kitchen, where she learns about pastries and kidneys and aspics and marrowbones. Through heat waves and power-outages and faulty plumbing, Julie cooks her butter-laden recipes into the night, shrieking obscenities and rarely serving her long-suffering husband before most 9-to-5-ers are turning off the TV and heading to bed.

Powell talks about the lessons she learns along the way (like how to kill a lobster), interspersing chapters with rather random fictional snippets from her mentor’s life. She also tends to meander off on drawn-out tangents about her waning sex life, her constant weight-gain, her views on politics and the people in her office, and the personal lives of her friends. While it all sounds very Bridget-Jones-y at first—and Julie has a unique voice that makes it fun—the meandering eventually takes away from the main story. At times, readers will forget that they’re supposed to be reading about a cooking project as Julie waxes philosophical about her married friend’s romance with a punk musician in England—or about the worthless suggestions that people sent her office regarding the location of the former World Trade Center buildings. While things like that would typically allow the readers to relate to the author, in this case, they tend to make Powell come off as the stereotypical loud, cynical, self-absorbed New Yorker. While I could often relate to Powell as she struggled with her latest dish, in the end, I just didn’t really like her.

Julie and Julia wasn’t what I expected. I hoped for an amusing story of the lessons a woman learned in her kitchen, but Powell’s writing was too self-conscious to make it enjoyable. And although the discussions about lobster-killing and serving eggs in aspics (that’s jelly-like stuff, in case you were unsure) often cut my lunch-time reading short, Julie and Julia would have been a better read if it had been more about the food and less about everything else.

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