Hi there! So you remember in March when I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for Healthy Living Blog book club (#hlbbookclub)? Well, our book of the month for March was Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 tiny apartment by Julie Powell. You may recognize this book from the movie Julie and Julia starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. When I heard that Julie and Julia was this month’s pick, I was excited for a couple of reasons: 1.) a group of bloggers were about to set off on a journey to read a book about a blogger who is writing about her blog- this is now getting kind of meta; 2.) I enjoyed the movie and was excited to read the book; and 3.) I love a good inspirational story!
Julie Powell writes this authobiographical (although some parts have been fictionalized) account of the year she cooked every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. At the start of the book, Julie is twenty-nine, working as a secretary at a dead-end job she hates and is feeling a sense of discontent with her life. On a trip home to her native Texas, she finds a copy of her mother’s old Mastering the Art of French Cooking (MtAoFC). Julie then decides to cook every recipe in the cookbook in one year while blogging about her experience.
Julie and Julia takes us through Julie Powell’s triumphs and tragedies as she attempts to conquer all 524 recipes in her self-proclaimed “crappy” Long Island City, NY apartment. What is so capitivating about this book and the “Project” as Julie refers to her year long experiment, is Julie’s voice. Her distinct personality shines through as we read about her attempts to make complicated and intricate recipes or simple recipes, which Julie confuses as being easy (she finds they are not-simple and easy are not the same). Anyone who has ever dedicated themselves to something, especially something unfamiliar can relate to Julie’s series of meltdowns and comedic failures during the Project.
While all of this provides for an interesting read, what I enjoyed most about the book was its relatability. Having recently turned 30, I can fully appreciate Julie’s need for self-evaluation and to find a deeper meaning in her life. Although the focus of the book is on cooking Julia Child’s recipes, it was really the writing/blogging that really helped Julie find herself and provided her with direction and ultimately a career path in life. Julie started the Project and her blog as a way to inject purpose and satisfaction into her life, not unlike my own journey into blogging, which I started as a way to balance out my crazy professional life.
Reading about the Julie/Julia Project did inspire me to take on my own sort of similiar project. Not to the same magnitude or with the same dedication, but I thought trying out something new would be fun. So, instead of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I will be learning The Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Just as Julia Child brought French cooking to mainstream America, Marcella Hazan introduced us to classic Italian cooking. I received a copy of this cookbook for my wedding and I made a salad and pizza recipe around Thanksgiving time. You would normally think that pizza would be heavy and overly filling, but actually it was light and tasty. So I’ve decided to work my way through the Essentials of Italian Cooking, not in a year and not making every recipe, but maybe once per week and over time. So we’ll see if I learn some new skills and take my cooking to new heights!
My first foray into the world of Italian cooking actually occurred this weekend when the hubs was home from Mexico. I made him a Porcini Mushroom Risotto, Marsala Steak with Chili, Green Beans with Parmesan and some Almond Cookies for dessert. We paired it with a nice Chianti (did I mention I was going to try various Italian wines with this project as well?).
I pretty much true to the recipes, although the Almond Cookies actually came out in one big blob (my sous chef– a.k.a. Pete– put the biggest cookie lumps, like the size of my palm, onto the pan before baking- he thought it was normal….?). The Risotto was a total pain. I thought Risotto usually cooks for about 25 minutes, well this one took an entire hour and it was not easy. I had to reconstitute dried porcini mushrooms in just barely warm water in order to create mushroom broth, which I then used to cook the Risotto. The recipe actually did not call for any porcini mushrooms to be added to the Risotto but quite frankly, I couldn’t justify spending $10 on 2 oz of porcini mushrooms only to through away the 1 oz the recipe called for to create the mushroom broth. So I chopped those buggers up and threw ’em in the Risotto. Tasted great!
Actually, everything ended up coming out very good. I can’t say it was stellar, I’ve definitely made better dishes before but I can say that everything tasted excellent. The Steak and the Green Beans were both fairly easy to make, which was great considering how labor intensive the Risotto was. I have to say I felt pretty confident with my abilities but we’ll have to see what happens when I tackle the next recipes! I’ll keep you posted!