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Finally, a book that I swear must have been written just for me.  I’m a broke, 20 year old stuck working in the campus library to make ends meet.  Julie Powell is a soon to be 30 year old, ex-theater geek who goes from temping to working for a bunch of republicans in charge of dealing with the aftermath of September 11th.  Needless to say, she does not like her job.  In fact, her life seems to be pretty mediocre.  It seems she’s living in a world where things seemed to pick her instead of her picking them.  (Do you ever feel that way, because some days I sure do.)

That is until she decides to start a wonderful culinary project: The Julie/Julia Project that is.  This project involves some wonderful things: blogging, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, lots of butter and cheese, and a few breakdowns just for good measure.  The journey that Julie takes through Julia Child’s life and cookbooks is an absolutely wonderful read.  It’s funny, witty, sarcastic at times, and completely REAL. There is no overriding editorial censor preventing Julie Powell from saying anything about her year of cooking dangerously – she admits it all.  And this is why I found the book to be incredibly heartwarming. It’s not about the project or the blog or the fame that followed the blog – it’s about Julie’s journey and how Julia inspired her to make a change in her life.  It’s about creating something outside of the miserable setbacks in your life and finding some joy.  Honestly, I think we all get to a point in our lives where a project like this becomes a necessity.  Unfortunately, we don’t all find the time to embark on said project.

Julie’s biting tongue literally makes me want to find her and immediately become her best friend – as well as the fact that she’s probably got endless amounts of cooking tips for me!  The book made me laugh out loud and read with a constant smirk on my face.  It also made me incredibly hungry.  If anything, this book will make you want to go out and start cooking Julia Child recipes.  And for those of you who don’t immediately fall head over heels for Julie Powell, you will fall in love with Julia Child.  Unlike the movie, the book is predominantly about Julie Powell with only snipets about Julia and Paul Child.  Although I love Julia Child, I enjoyed seeing Julia through Julie’s eyes.  Biographical information of Julia can be found in other pieces of literature – this book is not meant to be about Julia and I like that.  I also like the awe and respect Julie uses when speaking of her culinary hero.  Instead of getting to meet Julia Child, we meet Julie’s Julia who for the purpose of the book is absolutely sufficient and approachable.  She’s that voice in your head that guides you – a guardian angel of sorts and I love that Julie comes to realize and embrace this fact.  We should all have a hero in the back of our heads – I think it would make us all better people.

Still, the book isn’t perfect (few books are!).  Its definitely made its way into my favorites category, but that’s mostly because I loved Julie’s voice.  The plot and narrative isn’t always clear and doesn’t always flow smoothly.  Julie’s stories are frequently interrupted by other stories which left me confused as to what she was really talking about in the first place.  That didn’t make the stories any less enjoyable per se, but I would have liked everything to be a little more straight forward.  I wanted a clear timeline so I could feel like I was taking the journey through Julia’s cookbook with Julie.  I wanted to experience every success and disaster in stride with her.  But the book doesn’t chronicle every day of the project.  Instead, it merely recounts highlights and lowlights along the journey.  It’s easy enough to follow the general plot, but I’m afraid that some things might have gotten lost for me.  Maybe a second read through would smooth this out for me (and I’m sure I’ll pick this up again soon – it’s definitely one of those feel good books you want to read when you’re feeling down).

One of my favorite pieces of the book was reading about Julie’s relationship with Eric, which I found to be awfully inspiring.  They prove the importance of viewing a marriage as a partnership: he supports her even if he doesn’t always understand why she’s doing what she’s doing.  His unwavering support is beautiful and I find their marriage to be extremely inspiring.  Even after bickering or anger or frustration, they return to their roots, and remember what brought them together.  It’s definitely what I hope I’m building with Brian, my boyfriend of two years – a relationship built on the strongest bonds of friendship.  On this subject, one passage really sticks with me:

I blame Eric.  It was only because of him that I started cooking in the first place – I was a picky kid, but he was the most mysterious and beautiful boy in school, and I would cook anything to impress him, no matter how weird.  It didn’t take long for things to get twisted.

Quail in Rose Petal Sauce was the first really bad sign. (250)

As you can see, Julie’s stories and anecdotes are not only funny (hilarious at times), they are so easy to relate to!  I remember trying to cook my way into boys’ hearts all throughout high school (and absolutely adoring Like Water for Chocolate – another book I absolutely adore).  I still try to cook my way deeper into Brian’s heart.  There is something about cooking for someone else that really shows that you just love them.  It’s really beautiful and heartwarming.  Perhaps, as Julie points out, it has to do with that indescribable joy you get when you create something absolutely delicious and fulfilling out of seemingly nothing.  You take ingredients that on there own would be disgusting and turn them into a beautiful masterpiece  that gives your body nutrients and you feel complete.  At least, that’s how I feel when I make a good meal that I can share with people I love.  I feel satisfied in all the best possible ways.

Julie and her delicious, heartwarming meals won me over.  Beautiful and charming book.  Not necessarily a literary masterpiece, but definitely a must read.  Please, do yourself a favor and read this book.  Then, if you haven’t, go see the movie.  You’ll be laughing yourself to tears in both cases.

BONUS: Julie Powell will be releasing a new book entitled Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession. I can’t wait to read more from her.  There was an excerpt in the back of my copy of Julie and Julia and I devoured the ten pages … can’t wait for more!

Overall rating: A-

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