This is the true story of Julie Powell’s adventures in what she calls cooking dangerously. In the movie, she was portrayed as an insurance agent, but actually, in 2002 when she cooked her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days and blogged about it, she was working for Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Her project earned her a lot of attention, not just from those reading her blog. She was repeatedly admonished by her boss not to give the name of the agency either in her blog or in interviews with the media. Either the agency thought her project a source of embarrassment or they just didn’t want to be mentioned. However, they were noted in the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julie_Powell
The book also covers other aspects of Julie’s life: her and her husband Eric’s move to a decrepit loft in Long Island City, two friends’ relationships, and another friend leaving her husband for another man. Julie’s cooking is thwarted by pipes that leak and then freeze, drains that don’t work properly, and maggots in the sink of her tiny apartment kitchen. Her story is interspersed with scenes between Julia Child and her husband Paul from the 1940’s which she bases on Paul’s letters. After completing the project, Julie and Eric visit the Julia Child exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. and leave a stick of butter as a token of their thanks. Then comes the book deal with Little, Brown, and Company, and in the end, as Julie is writing the book in August of 2004, she receives a phone call from her mother saying that Julia Child has passed away.
Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously was published in 2005. A second book entitled Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession was released in 2009. According to a review in The Sunday Times, this is about her experiences training as a butcher. It’s also about how she cheated on Eric and how he cheated on her which resulted in their separation. I’m not sure I want to read it. Julie still has a blog at http://juliepowell.blogspot.com/ but the last post was in April of 2010.
I doubt I’ll undertake any dangerous cooking projects. This has nothing to do with my visual impairment. I’ve known people with no vision at all who have barbecued meat over an open flame. My husband Bill is totally blind, and before he suffered a stroke that partially paralyzed him, he made mashed potatoes that were simply to die for. If I wanted, I could learn to prepare the feet of cows and other animals with poached eggs and other ingredients, dissect lobsters even when they’re still alive, and bone a whole duck. If I discovered maggots in my kitchen, I could do what they did on the Battleship Potemkin in 1914 and make a maggot soup. I’m surprised Julie didn’t think of that, but maybe she didn‘t see the movie. Besides, Julia Child would probably have turned up her nose at such a creation just as the sailors did on the Battleship Potemkin.
Anyway, when Julie undertook this project, she was turning thirty and felt her life was slipping away and needed to do something that would give her a sense of accomplishment. I’m nearly fifty, and although my life might be slipping away, I have plenty to be proud of and keep me occupied. I’ve published my first novel in July of 2007. I’ve put together a collection of poems entitled How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver which I’ve been sending to various publishers. My singing and writing group obligations keep me hopping. Caring for Bill is a project in itself. I considered blogging about that, but Bill would have been mortified if millions of readers all over the world read about how I cleaned him up after his bowel movements. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing, and as far as cooking is concerned, I’ll stick to macaroni and cheese and tuna casserole.
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome