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Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously    by Julie Powell order for
Julie & Julia
by Julie Powell
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2009 (2005)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Anise Hollingshead

Julie Powell, bored with her life as a secretary in New York, embarks on a year-long odyssey to cook her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. There are 524 recipes, so you do the math. There's gonna be a whole lotta cookin' goin' on.

The premise, on the face of it, doesn't sound like very interesting material for a book. However, this is an entertaining journal that involves all aspects of Powell's life during that year (including depictions of eccentric friends and relatives) rather than just a collection of recipes. The journal tone comes from the fact that this project was actually an Internet blog. It detailed the highs and lows of the author's culinary feats each night, with a loyal fan base who freely commented on her web site.

Julie already knows basic cookery, so she's not a novice. Child's is an old cookbook, though (1961), and it is designed around the idea that women will have hours each day at their disposal for the preparation of dinners. Also, some of the ingredients just aren't used much any more - as when making aspic from calves' feet, and using marrow bones for different sauces. So, Julie's encounters with many of the recipes are just plain hilarious, as when she has to first locate a marrow bone in Manhattan, then figure out how to crack it open and extract the marrow. Her mayonnaise exploits are the stuff of legends.

Interspersed with the descriptions of Julie's cooking every night are comments on her husband, friends, and relatives (which are usually entertaining, but sometimes can be a little distracting and off-topic), along with her philosophical musings on religion and other topics. One amusing addition to all the cooking is Julie's imagined conversations between Paul and Julia Child, prior to Julia's enrolment in cooking school.

The tone throughout is breezy, warm and chatty, as if Julie Powell has invited us into her life and home during her project, without any restrictions. We are made to feel welcome, like one of her friends. It's an unusual book, but one peopled by ordinary folk, who react much as we all would do. I don't really like to cook, but I did enjoy reading about Julie and Julia's cuisine. However, one caveat to my wholehearted recommendation of the book is its constant profanity, which was an an unpleasant surprise and soon began to wear on me. Otherwise this is an excellent read.

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