I saw the new movie Julie & Julia this weekend and loved it. The movie follows the real life story of Julie Powell a young woman working as a drone in a government job in New York by day and cooking adventuress by night. Inspired by her favorite chef Julia Child, she embarks on attempting all 524 recipes from Julia’s cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days. The task seems monumental and that is the hook. The best part, however, was that she wrote about the entire experience daily on her blog The Julie/Julia Project, and later turned her amazing experience into the bestselling book Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. This book evolved into the movie Julie & Julia by writer/director Nora Ephron who brilliantly combined Julia Child’s own struggles becoming a chef from her book My Life in France. Each book reveals the story of two ladies adrift in life, looking for direction and passion, who both turn to cooking and find their true calling. Amy Adams and Meryl Streep portray Julie & Julia respectively with great success. Streep is particularly amazing in capturing the distinctly exuberant personality and trilling voice of one of the most famous early television personalities and cooking icons in the world.
What touched me most about the story was the parallel lives of Julie and Julia, and how two smart, funny and ambitious ladies find their bliss by doing what they love most. This concept is by no means new to me. Following your bliss has been in the popular lexicon for years, so much so, that I have begun to resent it whenever it pops into a conversation with family and friends who want to give me advice on my life’s direction. I must confess that I have followed my bliss across hill and dale for many years with variable degrees of success and failure. In my own defense, it has been my closest friend and my recipe for happiness, though it has brought little money and no fame. To all nay sayers who do not believe in following your dreams, I will only add “Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does.”
Blogging about Jane Austen is a joy, but like all great challenges it is the journey and not the end result that is the reward. Julie’s adventure in cooking, blogging and ultimately as a published author is further evidence of this philosophy. She had her daily successes and failures in the kitchen and was at several points ready to quit, but she didn’t. Jane Austen wrote and rewrote for years, submitting manuscripts that were rejected or never published before Sense and Sensibility was accepted in 1811. She chose, in an era of few opportunities for women outside of domestic life, not to marry and to write instead. She too followed her bliss. If it made her truly happy, we will most likely never know. Money was not her prime objective in writing, though it was most welcome. Julie Powell and Julia Child may not have chosen their bliss for pecuniary emolument either, but like Jane Austen it certainly brought them fame, and I hope a little happiness.
- Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, by Julie Powell
- My Life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck
- American Masters: Julia! America’s Favorite Chef
- The official website of the movie Julie & Julia