Just finished reading Julie and Julia, the book by Julie Powell about her year of cooking every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
First of all, I was never a reader of Powell's blog, though I had heard of her before the recent movie adaptation of her adventure. However, I think her idea of cooking every recipe in such a landmark cookbook is an intriguing one, and I was interested to see how she fared in her quest.
Not bad, it turns out. Julie managed to cook every recipe in the mammoth tome in exactly one year. And she also re-invented her life.
If you're looking for lots of recipes or cooking tips, you won't find them here. What you will find is a delightfully irreverent young woman who cooked and wrote herself out of a dead-end job and a feeling of hopelessness. Julie was 30-ish, working as a secretary, and feeling adrift when she decided to cook every recipe in MtAoFC in the next 365 days. With her husband's support, she figured she'd blog about her efforts.
Most consumers of pop culture know what happened next. She gained a cadre of followers, media attention, and a new career as a writer. In the book, one learns far more about Julie's life, her struggles, and the journey she takes to find herself than French cooking, but that's kinda the point. Powell never claims to be a great cook. (In fact, she admits over and over again that she's not one, often describing her failures in the kitchen.) And whether she is or not, who cares? What's admirable is that she set her mind to something and did it. She did it, even though it would have beena heckuva lot easier to sit on her couch eating Fritos for another 365 days.
I loved reading all the zany stories she threw in about her friends, the dinner parties she threw, and her adventures in grocery shopping for aspic recipes. (Spoiler - aspic requires calf hooves. Seriously.) In this book, Powell told unflattering stories about the folks she worked with, she examined the human need for food with an unflinching eye, and she ate a ton of butter.