Julie and Julia: In Retrospect

By Jenni Avins

At some point, I could ignore the Julie and Julia phenomenon no longer. I had dodged Julie Powell’s blog, and subsequent book, but the media onslaught that led up to the movie was impossible to avoid.

Vanity Fair provided appetite-whetting details about Julia, a spy who shagged her husband on her lunch break from Le Cordon Bleu. Michael Pollan wondered, in The New York Times Magazine, how Americans find less and less time to cook, and more to watch cooking shows (and, it would seem, read articles about movies about cooking show-hosts and the bloggers who love them). Nora Ephron, who wrote and directed the film, explained on NPR, that today’s food television exhibits cooking as an inaccessible spectacle, unlike Julia’s encouraging French Chef, and she then elaborated for Vogue’s Jeffrey Steingarten, as she browned the beginnings of a beef bourguinon for the camera.

Once I succumbed and saw the movie–which, in case you summered in Siberia, weaves Julia Child’s formative years of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in France with blogger Julie Powell’s year in Queens of making her way through the book’s recipes, it was altogether enjoyable, like an extended episode of Sex & the City for foodies. Le Creuset stood in for Manolo Blahnik; carnal close-ups of glistening bruschetta and soft-peaked pudding substituted for, well, carnal close-ups; and Julie Powell spoon-fed us lessons from her laptop at the day’s end.

From the first pat of butter sizzling on a skillet in Queens, through euphoric afternoons in Parisian bistros, and the best lobster scene since Annie Hall, Julie and Julia demonstrated that cooking, like sex, friendship, travel, adventure, champagne, and going to the movies, is an indulgence that can make our lives a little more colorful, and even more complete. Even without all the media’s mise en place, that story alone would have left me satisfied.

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