I just finished reading Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia, which I confess I’d been unaware of until the movie came out. The book and the movie both left my main question unanswered: how on earth did Julie Powell lure all those visitors to her blog? I wish I knew her secret. Reading her book, though, I can detect some of the key ingredients. I’m tempted to use the obvious metaphor of analyzing the ingredients in a delicious recipe, but in my case, that’s a phony parallel, because my sense of taste isn’t all that great when it comes to food.
Julie Powell’s primary ingredient is good writing. Just a couple of pages into the book, she had me hooked. I hadn’t expected such a high-caliber, thoroughly entertaining prose style. I’ll admit to being a tad jealous and upset, just as I am when I discover a truly excellent mystery writer, the kind that makes me think, “Damn it, I’ll never be able to write that well.” Actually, my thoughts are nastier than that, but unlike the other Julie, I tend to limit my use of four-letter words, at least in prose. (Orally, it’s another matter – I was once practically kicked out of my Nia class at the Y for using the F word. Remind me to post my poem about the experience.)
Then there’s the freedom with which she spills her innermost thoughts and feelings on the page. Early on, we learn about her gynecological problems: “I found out I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, which sounds absolutely terrifying, but apparently just meant that I was going to get hairy and fat and I’d have to take all kinds of drugs to conceive.” She talks about her sex life, or more accurately, her lack of same due to her cooking obsession. In the book as in the movie, her husband Eric comes across as an absolute saint. I love her penchant for self-disclosure, and as you’ve probably realized if you’ve been following my blog, I write fairly openly about many aspects of my life, but unlike her, I believe there’s such a thing as too much information.
Julie Powell developed a loyal readership (her “bleaders,” she called them – short for blog readers), and whenever she missed more than a couple of days of posting, their comments reflected their alarm about her state of mind and their fear that she might give up and leave them in the lurch. Gradually she developed a sense of obligation to them, which no doubt helped sustain her momentum in cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year.
Another primary ingredient, of course, is the subject of food itself. No doubt this is what attracted her initial followers, but it wouldn’t have grabbed me. Yes, I own a few cookbooks, but the last time we moved, in 2001, I packed away most of them in a carton I’ve yet to unearth from among the many boxes of books moldering in my basement. Mostly I improvise. So does my husband, who fortunately shares the cooking duties fairly evenly. Lately, for the sake of longevity and all that good stuff, he’s trying to turn us into vegans. I find I scarcely miss meat, but as a native of Wisconsin, I could never give up cheese.
It’s five o’clock, and this post is making me ravenous. Besides, I need to take off for Woodstock, where I’ll be on grandmothering duty tonight and tomorrow. Hope I can pull together something to feed the kids! I have lots more to say about Julie & Julia, and how it relates to blogging in general and my own blogging ambitions in particular, but it will have to wait for my Wednesday post. I hope you’ll stop back then!