Saturday, August 1, 2009

Book Review: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

Review of Julie & Julia by Julia Powell

Out of context:
Talk about something I'd never think I'd be saying during the current administration, but God bless the White House. (page 293)

Married and living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, working as a secretary in an unnamed government agency after a series of dead end jobs, pushing thirty, and having learned that she may have fertility problems, Julie Powell is ready for a change. Inspired by her parents' copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (MtAoFC), Julie creates a blog and declares her challenge to the universe:

"Government drone by day, renegade foodie by night. Too old for theater, too young for children, and too bitter for anything else, Julie Powell was looking for a challenge. And in the Julie/Julia Project she found it. Risking her marriage, her job, and her cats well-being, she has signed on for a deranged assignment. 365 days. 524 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen. How far will it go, no one can say ...."

Sure enough, the book takes us through the challenges and victories of that year. The culinary ones have an undercurrent of NYC scavenger hunt and discovery, like Julie's first experience with bone marrow: Bifteck Saute Bercy garnished with bone marrow of a cow. The personal challenges and the torments of her low rent apartment meld with the Julie/Julia Project making frozen pipes, water outages, blackouts, and the move to Long Island City, Queens part of a large, mildly hysterical adventure.

With all the advertisements for the movie coming out and the buzz about this book, you probably know about the Julie/Julia Project and have some impression of the book. Before I began reading, I wondered whether Julie Powell would pull it off. It sounded like a good idea, but would it end up slow or contrived? Annoying? I'm glad to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I wish I'd known more about Julia Child as I read the about the birth of the Julie/Julia Project. My vague recollections of Julia Child meant that this book shaped much of my image of Julia. But this is really isn't a bad thing. Julie's Julia is a funny, practical, generous and adventuresome muse. I've just unearthed and watched a video of the Omelette Show on The French Chef and will surely watch more Julia Child over time.

Julie & Julia captures the flavor of New York so well. It's a light, enjoyable read full of good writing, interesting characters, and unusual dishes. I highly recommend it!

Read more direct from Julie Powell's blog What Could Happen at or the Julie/Julia Project blog at

Watch the Omelette Show on The French Chef at


  1. Wow--I had no idea that the book was so focused on NYC...that really intrigues me. I am definitly looking forward to the movie--will probably have to find and finish the book first!

  2. I have to read this one at some point. I grew up watching Julia and loved her shows.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  3. I've been thinking of adding this one to the TBR stack, thanks for the good review!

  4. I've seen quite a bit about both this book and the movie that has been produced from it. The project sounds quite intriguing especially for those interested in chef-dom or Julia Child.

    Great review!