Julia Child was the central subject of a very funny, yet touching movie Judy and I watched in the University district of Seattle Monday evening, with our child, Julia.
When Judy and I lived in Whittier in the 70s and early 80s, Judy bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking and I bought Julia & Friends. Both books called for way too much butter. We didn't mind when we were younger and lived in the damp climate of Prince William Sound, so we tried a lot of the recipes. They all work. Child's recipe for homemade pasta, in Julia & Friends, is the basis of all my own pasta recipes over the subsequent 30 years. It doesn't include butter.
Cooking has changed since Child's masterpiece was published in 1961. The making of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and a blogger's successful effort of creating every recipe in the book over a year's time is the subject of the movie, Julie & Julia.
People are so used to actress Meryl Streep outdoing herself in all kinds of roles, that her brilliance in her role as Child over a 15 year period after World War II is surprising nobody. What I haven't seen show up yet in the reviews, is the fact that Streep's interpretation of Child is an idealist's vision of the chef, just as blogger Julie Powell's image of Child was similarly elevated as she approached her year-long trial. They complement each other, and Streep's and Amy Adams' portrayals, though the characters never meet, is superb mirror imagery. In that sense, the dual idealistic visions, the movie is very good as a multi-level story.
When Judy and I used so many dozens of Julia Child recipes from her books, or recipes from her TV program, we cooked differently than we do now, in many ways. In the early 90s, we turned more and more away from fat and sugar, as we raised our kids. We've always used whole grains and whole wheat flour whenever possible. But Child always rejected the notion of processed food, as in mass marketed, corn sugar-based junk. So have we.
The rejection of a possible contact between blogger Powell and real book and TV person Child struck me as quite genuine, an experience bloggers often go through when dealing with people they respect or emulate, but who are steeped in traditional ways of presenting ideas. And the obsession of blogger Powell with caring for her readers, and throwing her real-life daytime world out of balance as a result hit a chord with me.