Despite being a bibliophile and avid reader from a young age, I had been growing unsettled by a case of reader’s block when Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia entered my life. I was at the library with a book, two magazines, and a DVD in hand, making my way to the counter to check out, when I passed a ‘Books on Cooking’ display. It was the sort of arrangement that libraries do where the selections all center around a theme and this one had books about food – recipe books, chef biographies, and Julie & Julia.
I am not a foodie. Not even a little bit. I barely enjoy cooking, and I definitely can’t stand reading about it, which is precisely why I walked right past that book display without more than a glance in its direction. Didn’t stop. Didn’t even slow down. But I picked up the book. As I walked past the display I casually, and without thinking, picked up the book and checked it out along with the rest of my items.
It took me a while to get around to reading it. As I said, I had another book, two magazines, and a DVD checked out. All of which I intentionally brought home, so they went first. Then one day, Julie was due. I was faced with choosing between a.reading the entire book in one evening, 2.renewing the book, or d.returning it. Since I had absolutely zero intention of reading this book I did what any rational person would – I renewed it. Then, when in three weeks it was once again due, and I had neither read it nor developed a desire to read it, I once again renewed it.
Some time near the end of the second renewal period I started reading the book and to my complete surprise I was really enjoying it! So much so that when it was due, and I was all out of renewals, I went to the library and found another copy of the book, transferred my bookmark to the second copy, then took both to the front desk where I returned and checked out different copies of the same book.
It didn’t take me long to finish reading the book. I enjoyed every single page (except, I will be honest, the Julia and Paul flashbacks), but I don’t have much else to say about the book itself.
Julie & Julia was an entertaining read. Entertaining enough that when Julie explained boring cooking processes I didn’t skim past those paragraphs. I read them. Every word. Even when I knew it was another butter clarifying or a lengthy marrow extraction or lobster murder session I read the full description because what I enjoyed most about reading Julie & Julia was Julie Powell’s voice. The Project itself (cooking all 524 recipes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year) was inconsequential. The real story, for me anyway, was Julie’s and the way she shared it felt honest and real and I connected with that very much.
Something made me pick up Julie & Julia (and keep renewing it until I read it) and during the time when I was reading it I kept getting ‘winks’ from the universe. Like the night I was reading the part where Julie is home for Thanksgiving and I was home for Thanksgiving. Or the time a friend loaned me a movie, which she insisted I watch, and one of the previews was for the Julie & Julia movie (which I didn’t even know existed and stars the wonderful Amy Adams). And then there was the day I went to Greg’s parent’s house and his mom just happened to have Mastering the Art of French Cooking displayed on the counter in a book stand. Or what about the night I was watching an old episode of The Mindy Project where Mindy goes to a Meryl Streep themed party as Meryl Streep playing Julia Child in the Julie & Julia movie. All of this happened during the time when I was reading the book and it felt like a little more than just coincidence.
I feel a great deal of gratitude for this book that I didn’t want to read. Julie & Julia did for me something that I appreciate beyond my ability to articulate. There are only a handful of books that I can say I have read exactly at the moment when I needed them, but this is one.
Reading was my first love. It has been my best friend, my teacher, my parent, and so much more. When I was in my reading rut it affected me, and different areas of my life, more than I realized at that time. Somewhere along the way, however, while I was following along with Julie’s story I reconnected with my own.