The last time French food-lovers got carried away with a feature film, it involved a cartoon rat, a spindly eggplant-loving restaurant critic and a Paris kitchen famously given the once-over by a four-star American chef. And yes, I cried at the end of “Ratatouille,” which, coincidentally, was the last movie my husband and I saw together in a theater until last weekend, when we (and what seemed like half our neighborhood) went down to the Edmonds Theater to watch “Julie & Julia.”
Mac loved it. And when the actress playing editor Judith Jones cooks Julia’s boeuf bourguignon, he leaned over and whispered, “that’s the first recipe I ever made out of `Julia Child.'” He didn’t call the famous cookbook by its rightful name — “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Nobody does. And may I mention he was 12 years old when he first schlepped “Julia” into the kitchen? (Which explains, in part, why I married him.)
Unlike Mac, my childhood TV-cooking hero was Graham Kerr, the “Galloping Gourmet.” As a pre-pubescent home cook in Philadelphia, I always envisioned him inviting me up from the audience to share a glass of wine and a taste of whatever he’d prepared that day. Who knew that one day the Galloping Gourmet and I would both end up living right here, writing about our favorite subject? But eventually, I, too, came to consider Julia Child a personal hero, whose many cookbooks line my shelves and in whose presence I once stood, in awe.
Julia, signing books at Sur la Table in 1995. Nancy, cub reporter, just behind her right shoulder waiting for an audience. (Seattle Times/Ben Benschneider)
I loved the movie too, even if (as more than a few film critics have suggested) the Julie Powell-cooks-in-Brooklyn segments weren’t as visually or viscerally engaging as the Julia Child-cooks-in-Paris footage. From my point of view it was a wonderfully rendered culinary confection, greatly enjoyed. Even if Powell’s part was far from the raucously raunchier take I laughed through when reading the literary version of her life as a burgeoning cook and blogger. But, hey! It’s a movie! And as Powell said in her treatise on the subject:
Ephron’s Julie, adorably depicted by Amy Adams, shares with me some traits, history, and relationships, but is emphatically not me. For one thing, I was never editor of the Amherst College literary magazine when I was there. I do not have friends buying up parcels of Manhattan real estate or writing Showtime-series-inspiring blogs about having sex with billionaires in private jets. I did not start a blog to get a book deal–people didn’t do that in 2002. I have never dressed up as Julia Child, and I hate Dean & DeLuca.
That’s something Eater Penny Lewis and her friends should consider when they get together this weekend to see the movie. In an e-mail sent this week, Penny wrote:
Some friends and I decided to do more than just see the film. Being of that generation where Julia’s cookbook was a revelation and a guide by which to work in the kitchen, we decided to make appetizers from her first cookbook and enjoy them togehter with French wines before going to the movie on Saturday night. We will return and enjoy a dessert again made from her recipe and discuss the movie!
Great idea, Penny. And if I wasn’t otherwise engaged on Saturday, I’d be right there with you and your friends, cooking Julia’s moules a la Provencale and enjoying the show all over again while keeping an eye out for the brief moment when my pal Corby Kummer made a cameo in a party scene (Corby! I almost plotzed!)
So, has anybody else seen the movie yet? What did you think? And tell me: if you were attending a “Julia” party, which of her recipes would you cook?