'Julie & Julia' - A Review of the Movie
The Julie/Julia Project
In August of 2002, while New York City was still under the pall of the devastation wrought by 911, Julie Powell was working for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation fielding calls from the families of its' victims. Depressed and feeling underemployed, Julie started reading Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and decided, in an attempt to breathe some oxygen into her life, to cook all of the recipes in it within a year and write a daily blog chronicling her attempt. The result was a blog, a book, and a movie. It is this movie, "Julie and Julia", which has earned the number four slot for favorite cooking movies ever. Apparently, Julia Child was not a fan of the blog, and her editor and dear friend, Judith Jones, made it clear to Ms. Powell in a rather unflattering remark, that this was the case. It's important to remember though, that Ms. Child came of age in the 1940's when television was brand new and the internet was a metaphorical twinkle in the eye. Ms. Powell came of age in the twenty first century where the internet, blogging, and social media are a part of our personal and cultural landscape. Unfortunately, the original Julie/Julia Project blog is no longer on the internet, but Ms. Powell does have a very irreverent blog called, “What Could Happen? Musings from a soiled and narcissistic whore.” What I personally think is amazing, and it is if you stop to think about it, is that Ms. Powell, after working eight hours a day as a public servant, shopped for, cooked, and then wrote about a fantastic recipe from Julia Child’s cookbook. Whatever criticism one may have, the sheer work involved in doing all of that is amazing. I cannot but think that somewhere in her heart, Julia Child would have approved of that.
The Movie/The Lovely Cooking
I grew up in a household that contained "Mastering The Art of French Cooking" and one where we religiously watched the "Julia Child Show". I personally don't recall any of her masterpieces being cooked in our house, but surely my mother must have tried a couple on for size at some point. Julia Child introduced American to fine cooking, fine foods, and good utensils, at a time when we were cooking from Betty Crocker. She gave us confidence with her supremely well-written step by step instructions. Julie Powell proved that those instructions worked for the average cook. Amy Adams, as Julie Powell, introduced Julia Child to this generation. The movie, with an extraordinarily well-played Julia by Meryl Streep, gave us a love story that reminds us that it's not just the young and beautiful that fall in love. It's not just the love story between Julia and her husband Paul (acted by the ever wonderful Stanley Tucci), but the love story between Julia and food.
The movie unfolds in two different eras, two different cities. There is the 1940’s Julia Child in Paris, and the 2002 Julie Powell in Queens, New York. Both live in tiny apartments, with tiny kitchens, essentially learning how to cook. One of my favorite scenes has Julia Child attempting to master the art of ‘chopping’. She has finally gotten into Le Cordon Bleu and is determined to keep up with her male counterparts. Paul walks into their tiny kitchen and is almost blown away by the scent of onions, a mound of which is piled two feet high on their table. Of the scenes in New York, with Julie Powell, I’m enamored of her attempts to perfectly poach an egg. It seems such a simple thing, but actually takes some skill. When she finally gets it right, it is a thing of beauty to behold (and eat). There is more actual cooking going on in this movie than any I have ever seen before in any movie. I suggest that you actually cook something to eat while watching this movie, because it’s going to make you ravenous. I am going to suggest the first meal that Julia ate in France, the meal that made her swoon, Sole Meuniere.
1/3 c. all purpose flour
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
4 sole fillets, 4 - 5 oz. each
6 T. unsalted butter
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
juice from 2 large lemons (about 4 T - 5 T. lemon juice)
1 T fresh minced parsley
Heat a large saute pan to a medium setting.
While the pan is heating, season the flour with salt and pepper. Pat the sole fillets dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle one side of each fillet with salt. Then, coat both sides of the fillets with the seasoned flour.
Add 3 T. of the butter to the saute pan. Once the butter starts to brown, place the two of the fillets in the pan. Cook for 3 minutes on medium low. Turn the fish carefully with a large spatula. Add half of your lemon juice (about 2 T.) and 1/2 tsp. lemon zest to the pan. Cook fish an additional 2 minutes. Carefully remove fish from pan onto an overproof plate. Pour the sauce over the fish and keep warm while you repeat the process with the other 2 fillets. To serve, sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper.