What I learned from Julie and Julia

I recently watched the 2009 movie, Julie and Julia. The movie is based on a famous blog by Julie Powell. Julie sets a goal of cooking 524 recipes in one year from Julia Child’s classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I related to the lives of both women.

Chef cooking in the kitchen

Do we need to cook 524 recipes in one year?

If you follow my blogs and posts on social media you will see a fairly simple, yet colourful and tasty, array of meals and snacks. The thought of cooking 524 new recipes in one year is quite overwhelming. In fact I doubt that I even cook 100 different recipes in a year. Whilst I admire Julie and Julia for their love of food and sense of adventure, I don’t believe we need so many recipes to enjoy food.

The number of cooking shows on television that promote difficult recipes and a wide range of rare ingredients concerns me. Sure, if you like to spend your spare time cooking, then that is fantastic. But most of the people who contact me for advice want simple, nutritious and tasty food.

I promote seasonal food, which calls for different styles of cooking in warmer and cooler weather, and the use of herbs and spices for flavour. I have a few standard recipes that are easily modified by the use of different vegetables and protein foods—stir-fry, curry, pasta, omelette and frittata. I am also an avid fan of using leftover food. Cooking with leftovers saves time the next day, and it also reduces the carbon footprint of our food.

How are we nourished by our food?

I love the care taken by Julie and Julia in the selection of their ingredients for cooking. Visiting the markets, the butcher and fishmonger were equally important as the preparation and cooking of the food. Eastern nutrition promotes the importance of mindfulness in the selection, preparation, cooking and eating of our meals. Each part of the process nurtures our mind and body.

I know the feeling of taking great care in the selection and preparation of my food, to then become distracted during the cooking and produce spoiled food. This featured in the movie when Julie was cooking the beef bourguignon—it is soul destroying. Our attention is required at every step. So whilst the nutritional quality of our ingredients is important in good health, so is our mindfulness.

How did Julie and Julia combine their passion for cooking and writing?

The movie cleverly interwove the lives of Julie and Julia. I related to Julie asking her blog one evening in 2002, “is anyone out there reading this?” Equally I appreciated the decade or so that it took Julia to complete the first edition of her cookbook, which was eventually published in 1961. To me the movie beautifully illustrated the role of modern and traditional forms of publishing in our lives.

A blog post provides short pieces of information on a topic or issue. Blogs often answer a question, provide “how to” guidance or provide an opinion, such as my Julie and Julia post. A book however plays a different role. Julia Child’s cookbook is like my book, Eating for You, as it provides a foundation for life. Our books share:

  • the professional and life experiences of the authors
  • step-by-step guidance to build confidence
  • life long references and resources

These books were both also written with passion and determination.

If you haven’t yet seen the Julie and Julia movie, then I strongly recommend it. For me it portrayed the positive role that food plays in our lives. It reconnects us to whole foods and our desire to share with others. Do we need to cook 524 recipes in a year? My short answer is “No”, but if you love cooking, then “go for it”.

Image credit: by Kzenon


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