12 December 2009

The Flimsies

Only recently did I rent the film Julie & Julia, on the life of Julia Child and the modern day New Yorker (Julie Powell) who attempted all of Child's recipes in 365 days, and blogged about the experience. I agree with other reviewers that Child's life deserved a film unto itself, rather than sharing time with a pseudo-comical account of Mrs. Powell's cooking/blogging experiment. Meryl Streep did a marvelous job capturing Child's effervescent personality and infectious warmth, and Stanley Tucci's understated performance as her dapper and artistic husband Paul charmed.

As infatuated with Child as Julie Powell was, Child did not return the affection. Her editor and close friend, the woman responsible for acquainting America with the force of nature that was Julia Child, Judith Jones, remarked that Child did not like Powell's blog, nor her experiment.
She didn't want to endorse it. What came through on the blog was somebody who was doing it almost for the sake of a stunt. She would never really describe the end results, how delicious it was, and what she learned. Julia didn't like what she called 'the flimsies.' She didn't suffer fools, if you know what I mean.
Powell exhibited the annoying modern (sometimes very American) tendency against restraint, choosing rather to "let it all hang out" on her blog, whether it be liberally strewing every post with four-letter words or talking about her meltdowns in her personal or professional life. She also didn't seem to be, in Child's opinion, "a serious cook," turning high art into a crass domestic project. On describing the trauma of preparing Lobster Thermidor, she wrote:
[W]e wound up facing the killing of the crustaceans alone. I didn’t cut their spinal cords. I didn’t put them in the freezer. I just dumped them out of the paper bag into a pot with some boiling water and vermouth and vegetable. And then freaked the fuck out.
Elsewhere, she quips,
In the last three days, three individuals have found my site by doing a google search for “Nigella Lawson ass.” I am as much in favor of auto-stimulation with a culinary element as the next joe, but guys – it’s Thanksgiving. Go eat some turkey.
Further on, she waxes eloquent on politics:
But have you ever noticed how Republicans never get called hypocritical when they indulge in pettiness and selfishness? That’s because they’re totally upfront about not giving a shit about anyone else. No one would call folks out on Hilton Head hypocrites in the same situation – they’d just being acting like the assholes we all know they are.
Or on married bliss:
Eric is, in all frankness, a lazy bastard of the first stripe. I mean, seriously. Let’s just say that when he’s here, he’s not exactly egging me on to domestic greatness.
And her descriptions of the results of a successfully rendered Child recipe range from "damned good" to "goddamned good." Otherwise she did a lot of complaining--about how this sauce tasted exactly like that sauce, or how eating the ham was like "licking a salt dome," or how veal scallops are "boring" and "unsubstantial." One almost wonders whether she'd be just as happy eating a McDonald's hamburger?

Sometimes she wouldn't bother to mention the results at all, good or bad, of her cooking experiments and simply drifted off on a tangent about irrelevant Powell-centered trivia.

Julia Child was no prude, but I can certainly understand why she wouldn't want to endorse this raffishness, nor find it in any way a compliment. According to the film, though, the poor blogger couldn't figure out why for the life of her her icon couldn't stomach her blog, and probably does not understand to this day. But back to the film--the parts about Child are delightful. I only wish there had been more, because she deserves an entire film devoted to her life and art, but with the success of Julie & Julia, it's probably likely we are forever foreclosed from the possibility.

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