RoadTrip America

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Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, by Julie Powell (Read by the Author)


Julie Powell was approaching 30 with her biological, emotional and intellectual clocks all ticking riotously. Working as an office temp and feeling that she'd not accomplished anything in her life, she decided to prepare every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking in 365 days. Not only does she prepare all 524 recipes in the space of a year, she blogs about her experience as she is shopping, cooking, serving and cleaning up after the meals. Dubbing it the Julie/Julia Project, she reports to her "bleaders" (blog readers) as she tackles the recipes, including details about the ingredients, the preparation and her husband's and friends' final evaluations of the dishes. This audio book is about passion... finding your passion and pursuing it in the face of daunting obstacles. Working out of a small kitchen with limited resources for expensive ingredients, Julie prepares a different dish or two each night but still reports to her office job by day. In addition, she posts humorous, insightful, embarrassingly frank comments on her blog so that her "bleaders" can vicariously join her on her quest to find meaning in life.

Julie remembered, as a child, perusing her mother's copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (when she couldn't sneak peeks at her parents' The Joy of Sex). Surprisingly, she found eroticism in both books and likened reading Julia Child's cookbook to reading pornographic bible verses. There was the purity of the ingredients--butter, fresh vegetables, organ meats--flavored with the visceral illustrations and Julia's no-nonsense approach to cooking. Perhaps it's no accident that Julie refers to Julia Child as J.C. throughout the book.

Julie Powell's reading of her book makes it an extremely personal account of the project. When she quotes J.C. she gives her voice the slightest higher pitch without making it the much-imitated annoying squeal we all associate with Julia Child. Parts of the book are disturbing, such as the occasional filthy conditions of her kitchen and artery-clogging richness of some of the recipes, but Julie bravely perseveres. Anyone squeamish about preparing lobster should fast forward when Julie begins the recipe that calls for cleaving a live lobster in two. As distasteful as she finds the task, she completes it as part of her undertaking, but swears she'll never prepare that recipe again. It's hard to tell what's more enticing about this book--Julie's flip, offhand, often irreverent commentary or her chronicling of the experience of identifying a seemingly insurmountable task and then accomplishing it. Whatever the charm, whether the listener is compelled to check out her blog or cook, Julie Powell has written a delightful book.

Ruth Mormon
7/24/09

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