It seems sacrilege for a budding food writer to avoid the foodie movie everyone’s talking about until now. Hey, I saw Food, Inc. before its release. My journalistic instincts just remain more muckraking than gourmet. But Julie & Julia beckoned. I couldn’t contain my curiosity anymore. In anticipation, I found myself grabbing lunch at our surprisingly excellent strip-mall French patisserie here. Le Patissier has delicious (and quick to disappear) almond cream and paste croissants. But the savory items, buttery quiches and salads with a snappy Dijon vinaigrette are also memorable. The bakery uses many local ingredients (strawberries in the tarts, etc.) but you’d never know, because they don’t advertise it for fear of being labeled “greenwashing.”
Julie & Julia was of course heart-warming. And Nora Ephron brilliantly melded Julie Powell’s memoir with Julia Child’s rebirth as a cook in France. I teared up several times, mostly in vicariously experiencing the letdowns and eventual joys the two leads had upon finally getting good news from editors/publishers/readers…our tenuous existence as food writers/bloggers/cookbook authors is in their hands. Of course Julie Powell’s self-doubts about the narcissistic nature of blogging, and her desire to forge on with this self-imposed project anyway, resonated with me. Perhaps the most poignant, but subtle, part of the film to me: when Julia cries, with envy, upon learning that her sister (who also married late) is expecting a child. Did she regret not having her own? Children would have compromised her career, she said, but she missed not having grandchildren. If only you could have one with out the other. It takes a void, for sure, to throw yourself headlong into something, as Julia Child did with French cooking.
But frankly most of her recipes, and much of French cooking, doesn’t really interest me. I’m only drawn to choice French desserts and pastries. I’ll attempt a few dishes: chocolate mousse, braised cucumbers, perhaps, and I’d love to learn to bone a duck. Julie Powell can also be a model of what I don’t wish to become. Sure, she had a great idea but could have poured much more curiosity and reporting into it. As with Harry Potter, I’m skeptical of the books everyone is reading or ordering at once. I’ll wait to turn to Julia when the trend cools down. At lest I’m not the only one who finds food of this style inaccessible and daunting.