Friday, August 14, 2009

More on Julie/Julia

I've been trying really hard not to think badly of Julie Powell, the blogger who cooked her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But it's kind of hard not to agree with Julia, who was quoted in this LA Times article as having said:
"she just doesn't seem very serious, does she?

"I worked very hard on that book. I tested and retested those recipes for eight years so that everybody could cook them. And many, many people have. I don't understand how she could have problems with them. She just must not be much of a cook."

Case in point: I was reading Julie's blog and she complained about having to boil the bacon for a recipe. She said she did it because Julia said to, but she had no idea why. Well, if she'd bothered to read the chapter on Ingredients she'd have known that the bacon Julia was used to in France wasn't smoked and wasn't readily available in America. She recommended parboiling it to get the smoky taste out so the dish didn't taste only of bacon.

That kind of inattention to detail, which is something I noticed cropping up again and again as I read through Julie's book, is what I think made Julia respond the way she did. If you read My Life in France, you see that Julia takes an engineer's approach to her recipes. Everything was carefully thought out and tested over and over to make it repeatable and to ensure the cook gets the result she expects. Yet Julie kept making beginner mistakes like not reading through the recipe and I very much doubt she did her mise en place. I get the feeling that Julie is kind of a dabbler in cooking. She enjoys it, but lacks the passion Julia had. Any project that had a deadline to keep her motivated and was interesting enough to write about would have done.

The reason I'm choosing to pay more attention to my cooking and to trying to find a good cooking project is because I've been a passionate cook since I was a teenager. My mom wouldn't let me cook when I was a kid, unfortunately, because I've always been interested in food and cooking. I've never dug into it the way I'm thinking about doing now because of the weight thing. I had this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that if I really went for it as a cook, people would say that if I didn't cook, I'd be thin. And I didn't want to have more blame heaped on my head. I realize now that my fear is a stupid one. Neither has anything to do with the other. Great cooks come in all sizes. And without that issue to deal with, the question comes back to where to start?