Well, in spite of my best intentions, I only finished one book during February. I had a couple of others going, but for a variety of reasons, I still haven't finished reading them. (Not that I consider it a problem, since I am reading merely for my own pleasure, but a lot of times it seems that I do nothing but read during the course of a month and finish several books.)
Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, by Julie Powell, was an enjoyable read. It was second on my list for the Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge. The book details a year in the life of Powell, who decided that she would try to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Powell herself admits that she was not a great cook in the first place, but once she decides to take on this adventure, she throws herself into it wholeheartedly. It's often a necessary release from her daytime job as a secretary in New York City for a government agency overseeing plans for a memorial of the September 11 attacks.
With her cookbook in hand, and the support of her husband, she does manage to accomplish her goal. Though her friends and family are puzzled by her activity at the beginning, by the time she is finished, they have become her biggest supporters.
Powell writes in a pretty conversational style, and is good at describing the different types of foods that she does not just get introduced to, but that she has to cook in a specific manner in order for the recipes to be successful. I liked the fact that she was not always enamored of Julia Child, or of individual recipes or ingredients; it was refreshing to me that she was not a blind follower, so to speak. Her writing allowed you to understand her frustrations, successes, and the obligation she began to feel towards her "Bleaders" (the name she gives her blog readers). You can see her changing throughout the book, not just personally, but in the way she looks at the world and her friends and family.
Having said that, some of her descriptions of her friends and family seemed forced at times. I am the first one to admit that my own stories about my friends and family strike some as possibly made up or based on an event that I have then added to, and I can tell you that is not the case for me - I couldn't make that stuff up if I tried! But Powell's friends and family (well, her brother in particular) seem extremely quirky, as if they are setting out to be quirky - you know, it's a conscious effort on their part. I found some of them particularly annoying for this reason. Since they were not the focus of the book, they only appeared at times, which was fine with me.
I found a lot of her descriptions of food preparations so well-written that they made me slightly nauseous! In particular, reading about her adventures making calves' feet gelee, and cooking (well ... killing) lobsters, nearly caused me to stop reading.
The only thing about this book that puzzled me was how Powell and her husband managed to afford the expensive and/or exotic ingredients for Child's recipes. Her descriptions of their jobs does not make it sound like they were raking in huge salaries, or even that they had some kind of cushion in the form of a bank account or family money they inherited. I know that even basic ingredients on special at the grocery store can often leave you making choices of what you really need as opposed to what you would like to be able to buy. And she was doing all of this in New York City, which has a variety of places to shop, but is not an inexpensive place. This is the same kind of question I had about Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love, though she does mention that she had some savings that she used for her world tour of self-discovery. So maybe I am just one of those people who have no sense of adventure, but I will admit that I kept wondering about the financial aspects of Powell's project throughout the book.
I would say that Julie & Julia is entertaining. I am sure that there are those who would be offended by her frequent use of the f-word, but in reading the book it was clear that it was part of her conversational speech, rather than something she added to the book for shock value. If that particularly bothers you, you may wish to choose something else. I just kept reading, and am not sorry to have made it to the end with her.
I have decided to offer the book to anyone who might be interested in it. Send me an e-mail or leave a comment by Saturday, March 7. If more than one person is interested, I'll pull a name out of a hat (or a bowl, or some other item, but you get the idea).
You too could be a winner!