Last night I saw the movie Julie & Julia. The film tells the real-life stories of Julia Child in post-World War II France and that of Julie Powell, a government worker in New York City by day and aspiring writer by night. In a discussion one night with her husband, Powell comes up with the idea to merge her love of writing with her interest in cooking by giving herself the challenge of blogging about cooking her way through 524 recipes from Child’s notable Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days in one tiny apartment kitchen.
The movie is worth watching for Meryl Streep’s superb portrayal of Julia Child’s character alone and for the stunning scenes of life in Paris where Julia and diplomat husband Paul Child are stationed in the post-war years. The trials and tribulations of Powell’s demanding culinary challenge in today’s world makes you at once exhausted and eager to make boeuf bourguignon.
Perhaps most important, I found the movie inspiring in a number of ways.
For one, it was telling to watch Julia Child search to do something meaningful with her life. We watch her try her hand at hat making, attempting to learn French, and starting a basic-but-boring cooking class for women. It is only when she enrolls in the more challenging, all-male Cordon Bleu cooking school where she becomes engaged that we see her interest in cooking take off, igniting her curiosity, perfectionism, and delight in discovery. Like Julia, many of us, I think, struggle with finding our purpose in life.
Second, Julie Powell takes us on her journey of not only learning how to cook, but also on one where she realizes through the process and through her reflections on Julia Child’s life what joy and connection with others food can bring. Many years ago, I used to cook much more than I do now because I had more time. I still cook most every day, but much more simply. I long for finding space in my life where I can return to making delicious, soul-satisfying meals.
And lastly, it’s inspiring to see the transformation both women make at different stages in life, especially in the case of Julia Child. Although not simple, the soul searching both women go through shows that it is possible to change one’s life. It begins by being attuned to what intuitively interests you and what you lose yourself in doing. It sounds easy, and yet so many of us grapple with how to target that key passion we possess and then with how to make the shift to that passion with a full and demanding life.