It’s been awhile since a book brought lots of smile in me and had me wiping my eyes in the end. So let me digress for a while from my restaurant adventures and give you a glimpse of Julie/Julia. This book is not about heart-wrenching drama despite my surprising tears but really a hilarious memoir of Julie’s attempt to cook all the recipes of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
I really liked the movie so it was a surprise that the book turned out to be way better. There were more interesting characters here like her friend Sally who dated a lot of Davids, his adventurous brother Heathcliff who sold soaps, her neurotic friend Gayle who went to bed with a married chatmate and her exuberant friend Isabel who left her husband and ran off with a punk guitarist. Though they weren’t the main characters in the book their quirkiness provided an interesting breather in an otherwise arduous culinary journey.
But the journey itself is far from boring. Julie writes with enough wit and funny sarcasm that it’s easy to forgive her anecdotes littered with cuss words especially during her culinary mishaps. I’m actually not offended by it. I find it so real, even refreshing because I love a writer who speaks her mind, not hiding behind subtle, restrained words just so she wouldn’t shock the readers. You can feel her frustration oozing on the pages when her crepes get stuck in the pan, her guilt over killing the poor lobsters and her aberration over eggs. I especially liked her lusty and enlightening view on beef marrow, that it tasted like dirty sex and a life well-lived, hmm…plus her obsession with the actor David Straithairn and the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer was also quite hilarious.
The book is a roller-coaster ride. You feel happy when she gets recognized and interviewed by the New York Times and feel awed as you witness her fits in the kitchen with throwing things to match because of an uncooperative mayonnaise. You also feel her squeamishness as she shockingly discover maggots in her dish rack, share her disgust over the pile of dirty dishes in the sink as and her mad frustration over the inconvenience of having no water. At the same time, you also begin to sympathize with her husband Erik, a down to earth man and a dependable rock caught in the midst of his wife’s stormy creative pursuit.
And just as you’re getting the hang of this funny culinary roller-coaster adventure, it ends by surprisingly tugging at your vulnerable heartstrings as she gives a memoriam to Julia Child, the woman she credits for saving her in drowning in an ocean of obscurity, of giving her the courage to pursue life with joy. How she managed to do that quite a feat for me, talk about surprises. That was priceless. But one thing I know for sure, when you write with an authentic voice like Julie did, with no pretensions of who you really are, the readers feel it, every sad nuance in every sentence, every happy skip, every surprising discovery. I felt it. So thanks Julie that was quite a ride.