A Great Night In- With Julie & Julia

JulieandJulia.jpgWhen Julie & Julia was released this summer, chef and cookbook queen Julia Child, who died in 2004, was once again on the bestseller’s list and all talk was of French cooking, cuisine and just how much butter a person needs in a day.

This week, just in time for holiday feasting, the DVD was released. It is the perfect film to share with the family, but it also has the makings of a private pleasure, an utter delight to be relished with gusto by lovers of food, books or simply lovely movies. But beware, it may inspire an all-day, all-night attempt to try the Boeuf Bourguignon, one of the stars of the film. (Lucky you! the recipe is right here.)

Upon its release the movie immediately entered the pantheon of “great food movies”, taking its place with, among others, Babette’s Feast, Chocolat, or Big Night which, coincidentally, also stars Stanley Tucci, who in this foodie flick plays Julia’s loving husband and fellow eater, a diplomat who was sent to Paris shortly after the Second World War.

Julie & Julia depicts the intertwined stories of Ms Child, taken from her wonderful memoir My Life in France , and Julie Powell, a frustrated foodie and more frustrated writer who hates her bureaucratic, dead-end civil servant’s job and in her anxiety to do something positive with her mid-life crisis, begins a blog (actually called The Julie/Julia Project)  on which she prepares a recipe a day from Child’s seminal Mastering the Art of French Cooking and then writes about the experience.

It started in 2002, thusly:

The Book:

“Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.
First edition, 1961. Louisette Berthole. Simone Beck. And, of course, Julia Child. The book that launched a thousand celebrity chefs. Julia Child taught America to cook, and to eat. It’s forty years later. Today we think we live in the world Alice Waters made, but beneath it all is Julia, 90 if she’s a day, and no one can touch her.

The Contender:

Government drone by day, renegade foodie by night. Too old for theatre, too young for children, and too bitter for anything else, Julie Powell was looking for a challenge. And in the Julie/Julia project she found it. Risking her marriage, her job, and her cats’ well-being, she has signed on for a deranged assignment.

365 days. 536 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen.

How far will it go? We can only wait. And wait. And wait…..

The Julie/Julia Project. Coming soon to a computer terminal near you.

Julie’s ensuing book is called Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, and it, like the blog, was a sensational hit. The release of the DVD of the film is cause for celebration and the basis for a great night in. Throughout the film both Julie and Julia plus their husbands consume a great number of what look like classic martinis so you may want to stir up a few of those to set the tone. In life, Julia’s favorite was a “reverse Martini”, a lot of vermouth and a splash of gin, but to thine own martini be true. The food cooked and consumed is gobsmacking – starting with the meal that opened Julia Child’s soul to real eating. Previously a full-on middle class New England matron fed on white bread and canned veg, Child repeatedly recalled her first meal in Rouen as a culinary revelation; once, she described the meal of oysters, sole meuniere and fine wine to The New York Times as “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.”

So struck by the food of France Julia attended Le Cordon Bleu and then created her own school with two French chefs before beginning Mastering the Art of French Cooking, aimed at teaching American housewives without kitchen staff how to create the complex and subtle cuisine of France.

From there Julia went on to become the first-ever TV chef, her first meal being an omelette. Trust us, as it turns out the humble omelette is something easier said than done properly.

Julie Powell is no slouch as a cook, either, and early in the film her fresh bruschetta with seared bread looks divine, as does her chocolate ganache. And that’s before she takes on the Julie/Julia Project.

So, you are warned. You may want to head to the kitchen immediately.

Or you could simply curl up in front of the TV… luckily there are no calories in just watching….