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Aug 19, 2009 02:17 PM

Calling all Powellphiles...

As per DallasDude's (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) suggestion on the Julie & Julia NYT review thread, I am starting one for Julie Powell's admirers.

After seeing and enjoying the film, I read the blog. Having finished that, I am now curious about the book, and the upcoming follow-up memoir. I found her self-deprecating writing humorous and brave. She recognizes her own shortcomings and does not make excuses. I appreciated Julie's ability to convey the hectic life of today's young working women, and admire her initiative and determination in conceiving of and completing her cooking project. I do wonder why did she not buy a microwave. A basic model is around $100 - which is less than the ingredients for some of the meals cost her. That certainly would have sped up most of that sauce reduction, and saved her from a portion of the suffering over a hot stove in summer.

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  1. I'm not exactly a Powellphile. I only read the book and found it at turns engaging (more depressing is that I started to get bored at times-- I hate that). However, I am really troubled by the amount of vitriol I've found on this board that has been directed at this poor woman. She decides to explore a cookbook with such thoroughness and determination? I get the sense that other hounds are jealous they didn't think of doing this, blogging it, and getting a book contract first.

    As for those incensed because Julia Child's book ought to be treated as gospel or bible? I've never been a fan of any kind of fundamentalist.

    And the question? who knows? There are definitely a number of people who are not fans of microwaves. Also, NYC kitchens (by which I mean at least Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn) can run to small, so if not built in, could well take up the only counterspace available. Also, I reckon it would feel like cheating wrt Julia Child (aka JC? hmmmmmm.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Lizard

      I, too, am bothered by the nastiness directed at Julie Powell, so much so that I've not read some of the offending threads for a long time. You have hit the main point that is bugging me--the near religious adoration of Julia Child that seems to preclude any acceptance of Powell's project. It is, as you note, the fundamentalism. And you may be right, with respect to the envy. I know I wish I'd thought of it first :)

      Both Julia Child and Julie Powell are on my growing list of culinary She-roes, for different reasons ( a list topped by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, by the way). Julia Child's MTAOFC is a stupendous project and her TV shows (which I never saw originally, only in reruns) are a hoot--love that she tells viewers that it's okay to make a mistake! But Julie Powell's attempt (successful) at cooking her way through that book is also worthy. And Powell, unlike Child, was NOT financially taken care of by a husband and family money. Julie Powell had to work, which probably makes younger women more likely to relate to her.

      BTW, after reading My Life in France, I've found plenty of incidences of judgementalism on the part of Julia Child. That doesn't mean that my respect for her culinarily gifts is diminished.

      Anyway, I may not be a Powellphile, but I certainly am an admirer of her!

    2. May I simply say that I want to slap this person in the head?

      No? Too bad, I've said it. My irritation stems mostly from this quote:

      "But good grief, people who don’t know how to begin to roast a ding dang chicken without following a recipe can be our new, ahem, food experts? This makes me a bit sad and more than a bit aggravated."

      Ya know what makes me "a bit sad and more than a bit aggravated"? People whose reading comprehension skills are so sorry that they'll read a blog about someone who climbed Mt. Everest and complain that that person wasn't a better geologist.

      4 Replies
      1. re: small h

        You slap one side, I'll slap the other. I did read this piece and frankly, the woman is envious. Right before the lines you quote she writes:
        " It’s also not a case of sour grapes on my part. Bravo for her. Her food memoir was a best-seller. A rising tide floats all boats, and as a food writer, I wholeheartedly thank her. I am not necessarily saying my writing is better. After all, who am I to question what is published in the New York Times?"

        But it IS sour grapes! And clearly, this is someone who a.) doesn't understand blogs or 'net culture and b.) is not a particularly good writer (granted, it's a blog post, but to dis someone else's blog writing when your own isn't exactly literary strikes me as a pot-kettle-black sort of thing). Unless she's into hipster irony.

        1. re: nofunlatte

          Hipster irony is such a ding dang tricky thing to pull off. I am with you on the sour grapes, mos def. What lurks beneath the surface of Ms. Willis' ra-hant is that she wishes she'd come up with this idea first, 'cause she woulda done it better. Mebbe so! But guess what? I think light bulbs are awfully cool. Also? the wheel! But it does no good for me to bitch about the fact that I didn't get in on the ground floor, there. Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

        2. re: small h

          This is why it's so 'dangerous' to use e-mails instead of telephones and to blog about your thoughts.

          What the writer said was: "But one day she made a comment implying a recipe being wrong for roast chicken. I honestly don’t remember what it was, but it struck me as being so disrespectful, completely without deference to Julia Child, that I stopped. What the hell did she know about food? Had she even heard of poulet au Bresse? Didn’t go back. No malice. Just didn’t want to follow anymore."

          Is that the part you want to slap her for?

          I think I read somewhere that what Julie said was to the effect that roast chicken is one of those dishes that many people have their own favorite version of. If she tested all 524 recipes and found one she thought she might like her own version of more................ so what??????????????

          But.................. one thing that comes through to me in all this commentary-style writing is that the writers know that they need to be a bit edgy once in a while to be interesting to read. This kind of thing is one of the minor prices we pay for the modern world of virtually unlimited communication vehicles. Life's too short to be bothered by it at all.


          1. re: Midlife

            I read what you read, yes. And I'm hardly the first to note that Virginia Willis, either through ignorance, laziness or willful disregard, misrepresented what Julie Powell was trying to accomplish. Willis made up a Powell who didn't exist, who was a "food expert," who dared to doubt the infallibility of Julia Child.

            So if I make a recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and I follow it exactly, and it comes out just as it would have if Child herself had cooked it, and I STILL DON'T THINK IT'S ALL THAT, am I a heretic? Because it sounds like Willis thinks I would be. And that's just pathetic.

        3. Life can be just dumb fun or you can learn and grow. Ask yourself: what did you learn from JP and JC?

          From JP I learned that if you come up with a really clever idea and exhibit the sort of sticktoitness that (ironically) would make Republicans proud, you can improve your economic station.

          From JC I learned grace and something about cooking.

          1. I have to say that all the negativity on these threads piqued my interest and I bought the book today. I'm not too far into it, but I find it fairly entertaining in the same way I found the first Bridget Jones to be entertaining. I'm a late gen-Xer who didn't get a career up and running immediately either, so it may be that I can relate to her more than some other people.

            I did have to laugh at the people who thought she went into it as a money-making opportunity when she says in the book that she didn't even have a clue what a blog was until her husband mentioned it to her. It also seems like she cut corners on a lot of the dishes because the ingredients were just too hard to find or she had no clue what they were.

            1 Reply
            1. re: queencru

              Hooray for this thread!!! Read the blog, it is so much more entertaining then then book.

              And really, if there were no Powell blog and book, would there be a movie featuring Julia Child? The showing I went to had 3 youngish (20's?) girls sitting in front of me. My God, they now know who Child is and what she brought to us. HOORAY!!!

            2. I read the blog and LOVED it. Really enjoyed the book too-- read it three times! I think Julie is funnier than h#*! and I really wish the movie had delved more deeply into her life and her experiences with the J&J project. My hat is off to anyone who can make it through eight hours of soul-crushing work, go grocery shopping, take a crowded subway train home, and then cook a French dinner at the end of it all. Not just one dinner, but one a night all the way through an entire cookbook. I thought that J&J was inspirational; it really gave me some hope for MY future, and that's saying something! Now there's a run on Julia Child cookbooks, especially MtAoFC, and a whole new generation is discovering JC for the first time. How cool is that? Good for Julie-- she motivated me to dust off my old copy of MtAoFC and revisit a few recipes all over again. A lot of other folks are probably doing the same thing right now.

              1 Reply