I’m almost finished reading the book Julie & Julia – 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell, published in 2005. I ordered this book while I was anxiously awaiting the movie Julie and Julia, a 2009 drama comedy film, written and directed by Nora Ephron. Julie Powell’s book was retitled Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously when it was published in 2006.
I haven’t seen the movie yet. Most of the reviews have been very good. One review said the audience stood up and cheered at the end of the movie! Julia Child is portrayed by Meryl Streep and Julie Powell is played by Amy Adams. I’ve read that the film depicts events in the life of chef Julia Child in the early years in her culinary career, contrasting her life with Julie Powell, a woman who aspires to cook all 524 recipes in 365 days from Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, published in 1961.
Ephron’s screenplay is adapted from two books My Life in France, Child’s autobiography, written with Alex Prud’homme, her grandnephew, and the memoir by Julie Powell. In August 2002, Powell started documenting online her daily experiences cooking each of the 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She later began reworking that blog, The Julie/Julia Project, into her memoir.
At the age of 37, after her marriage to Paul Child, Julia took French cooking classes at the Cordon Bleu while living in Paris, France. French cuisine became one of her passions. I had no idea that Julia was 6′ 2 ” tall! She became famous from her television cooking show and her parting words at the end of each show, “Bon Appetite!”
Julie Powell’s book is a memoir not an autobiography. Many of the details may be true but she states in the Author’s Note, “For the sake of discretion, many identifying details, individuals, and events throughout this book have been altered. Only myself, my husband, and certain widely known public figures, including Julia and Paul Child, are identified by real names. Also, sometimes I just made stuff up.”
Julie Powell’s book is an interesting read but, in my opinion, she indulges in too much self-deprecation and the use of swear words. Julie is a lost sole. She works as a secretary in a federal government office overlooking the World Trade Center crater and laments that she has never finished anything in her life. Thus her determination to complete the cookbook marathon.
There are some inconsistencies in this book. Julie and her husband, Eric, live in a run-down apartment in Long Island City, New York, yet they spend exorbitant amounts of money on ingredients for her cooking project and booze. They happily share her experiment in cooking with many friends and acquaintances. Julie is also filmed preparing recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking for newspapers and TV programs in her tiny cluttered kitchen with backed-up plumbing after word gets out about her project. If their apartment was as bad as she describes no one would step foot inside.
Julie’s description of digging the marrow out of a marrow bone for the sauce for steak with beef marrow sauce made me a little nauseous. She describes the marrow as “pink gluey clots that plopped down onto the cutting board”. Making Oeufs en Gelée, a poached egg in aspic, also turned my stomach. The gelée for the aspic was made by simmering calves’ feet in beef broth which made the kitchen smell like a tannery and the dish taste like hooves! No offense to French cooking of the 40’s , 50’s, and 60’s. I’m not sure the French chefs of today make their own gelée for aspics by simmering calves’ feet.
Beef Bourguignonne, a beef stew, is the recipe Child taught viewers on the first episode of The French Chef. By cutting down on the bacon and butter (and replacing beef stock with a lower-sodium version), you can make this hot and hearty dish for less than 500 calories. It also packs more than 30% of a woman’s daily dose of iron.
This hearty entrée actually tastes better when made a day in advance. Warm it up in a Dutch oven over medium heat until thoroughly heated.
Beef Bourguignonne With Egg Noodles
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 1/4 pounds beef stew meat
3 bacon slices, chopped and divided
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced carrot
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium beef broth
8 cups halved mushrooms (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 (16-ounce) package frozen pearl onions
7 cups hot cooked medium egg noodles (about 6 cups uncooked noodles)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Combine flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add beef; seal and shake to coat.
Cook half of bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon; set aside. Add half of beef mixture to drippings in pan; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef from pan; cover and keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining bacon and beef mixture. Remove beef from pan; cover and keep warm.
Add chopped onion, sliced carrot, and minced garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in red wine and broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add bacon, beef, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, mushrooms, tomato paste, chopped thyme, bay leaves, and pearl onions; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Uncover and cook 1 hour or until beef is tender. Discard bay leaves. Serve beef mixture over noodles; sprinkle with parsley.