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Julie masters the art of Julia's cooking

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At one point in Julie Powell's self-deprecating memoir, Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, she has an epiphany:

"Sometimes you get a glimpse into a life that you never thought of before ... and the next thing you know you're flogging grateful businessmen or chopping lobsters in half, and the world's just so much bigger than you thought it was."

Powell's account of cooking every recipe in Julia Child's landmark Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year's time gives readers a delightful peek down Powell's personal rabbit hole.

If one can't imagine a cooking memoir being funny and fascinating, think again.

Powell does for the amateur cook what Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential did for restaurant chefs.

It's a look at what happens when a writer dissects the seemingly mundane and exposes a world we never considered.

Bored with her clerical job and with her 30th birthday too close for comfort, Powell, who never had culinary training, decides to take on Child's cooking classic.

Julie & Julia's wonderful tempo and hilarious digressions into the intricacies of boning a duck and killing lobsters make this very hip memoir easy to digest.

During her year-long quest, Powell gained 20 pounds. But she also, and quite unexpectedly, nourished her spirit and quenched her thirst for a new appreciation of life.

What makes Powell and her book so lovable is that her attempts to cook things like Boeuf Bourguignon and Puree de Pommes de Terre a l'Ail fail as many times as they succeed.

Her cooking tales are peppered with painfully honest anecdotes about her marriage, family and friends and how people who followed her cooking adventures on her blog supported her and kept her focused.

Readers will love that she never pretends to be more than she is -- a working-class girl who dares to step out of her run-of-the-mill life and find what we are all looking for in life: "joy."

After sifting through tons of ingredients, palatable and unpalatable meals, mountains of dirty dishes, numerous bottles of wine and countless vodka gimlets, Powell finds something she never expected:

"The deeply-buried aroma of hope and discovery of fulfillment. ... I thought I was using the Book to learn to cook French food, but really I was learning to sniff out secret doors of possibility."

Readers will come away from this year of cooking with a deeper appreciation of all things culinary and a renewed determination to follow Powell's lead and master the art of living.

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© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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