Hi! Julie Powell here, Amherst Class of ’95, and author of the book I guess we’re all here to chat about, Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. Julie & Julia recounts the events of the year during which, in the grip of the sort of existential panic that looking down the barrel at one’s 30th birthday can cause, I decided to pick up a 40-year-old classic cookbook and make all 524 recipes within it, in the space of a year. And blog about it.
Since college I had been an enthusiastic cook and a frustrated writer, and when I fell in love with Julia Child’s 1961 masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, at nearly the exact same moment that my husband, Eric, told me about this odd new thing called a “weblog,” subject and medium came together and I finally I discovered a way to carve out a niche for myself in my frustrating discouraging life, find my voice as a writer, and, oh yeah, learn to cook. Julie & Julia charts that journey, and all the triumphs, disasters, and revelations during a year that almost killed me but wound up changing my life.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
Julie & Julia is, of course, a book about food and how it sustains us, not just in the moments when everything turns out gloriously, but also when you face disasters with aplomb (or maybe not so much.) What interests me about food is how it informs every aspect of our lives, not just the joyful abundant Thanksgiving spreads with family, but also that dry pimento cheese sandwich you ate at your grandfather’s funeral.
The book is also about marriage, about the trials and tribulations of being a woman living in New York at particular time (on a particular salary), and the pains of growing up, a bit, belatedly. The Project for me became a prism through which to view my life, and maybe find something in it, or me, that I hadn’t suspected was there.
Also, of course, it’s about Julia Child – the extraordinarily wide reach of her legacy, and the capacity her work has, still, to help women (and men) change their lives. I think of Julia Child as a feminist icon as well as a culinary one. Mastering came out in 1961, just two years before The Feminine Mystique (by fellow Smithie Betty Friedan) came around to tell women that cooking was drudgery binding them to lives of servitude. Julia, I think, saw cooking completely different – as artistic, as rigorous, as empowering, as something that women could master not in order to become happy housewives, but to grow and create and be strong. One of the few false notes I’ve come upon so far in Mad Men, a show I am in awe of, is that none of the women have cracked open Mastering yet. I keep waiting for it to happen. I’d love to hear what others think about Julia’s influence, both in and out of the kitchen.
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