Julie and Julia

by Jan

This film is not really about food. It’s a film and it’s about two women in search of a life. And some meaning to put in it. The director, Nora Ephron allegedly said that she used cooking as therapy to cope with a marriage breakdown.

It’s easy to relate to these three women; cooking can be a way to satisfy something inside which has not been met or anguish and boredom. It worked for me, and I made a career out of it.

I was hooked with Graham Kerr on television. Then was the stage of taking over the kitchen in shared flats. And no one complained about being used as guinea pigs for my creations.

During that stage I also devoured cookbooks and one of my flatmates insisted that I enrol at Cordon Bleu in London. I duly did a course and never looked back.

Apart from the set text, Cordon Bleu Cookery, I also read Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol 1 & 2. But my favourite was Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. I worked my way through the recipes, but not systematically, like Julie Powell. I was constrained by the seasons and my budget. And I didn’t feel the need to document it at the time. It appealed to the francophile in me, as well as the gourmande.

When watching Graham Kerr and learning French at school and uni, I felt that real life happened somewhere else, definitely not New Zealand. A bit like the film An Education in that regard. I was obsessed with Kerr’s sophisticated Classical French cuisine – there was a huge chasm between this and home cooking in the Antipodes.

Also the concept of making a profession of cooking did not seem possible until I lived in London. Cordon Bleu made it seem within grasp. Because of this accumulated knowledge, I noted two silly moments in Julie and Julia. The first was that Julie made some aspic which she deemed a disaster. She tipped it down the sink with a camera following it, at which the audience gasped. Unless the aspic tasted off there was actually nothing wrong with it. This incident was just to heighten the drama.

Secondly, Julie had a tanty on the floor because she thought the stuffed chook was a disaster. It probably wasn’t, but was put in for audience entertainment.

Finally, Julie had a sense of accomplishment which was assisted by the discipline of the regular writing of her blog.

At the time when I was devouring French Provincial Cooking food media were limited to books, magazines and a few television programs. Now it’s a smorgasbord. There are thousands of blogs which cannot be controlled by publication editors’ gatekeepers. But blogs also reveal that anyone can post any utterance no matter how ill-informed. For example, one of the contestants in Masterchef had a placement with a high-profile restaurant. Someone revealed their opinion that the food tasted better due to the presence of this contestant. Alice in Wonderland stuff.