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The Julie/Julia Project: the “Bon Appetit” Blog

     Julie Powell had calves brains on the stove and cucumbers on the cutting board as she spoke about her blog, the Julie/Julie Project. Her dare to herself late last summer was to keep an open journal for one year as she cooked every recipe in Julia Childs’classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Thousands of readers are panting with her now as she races to the finish. This is a personal blog lifted by wit and style toward real writing and performance art, not to mention fame and fortune. Here’s a sample of her prose:

     “Okay. So Monday night was Foie de Veau a la Moutarde (Liver with Mustard, Herbs and Bread Crumbs.) This I made after attending an obligatory office party, so it was nine-thirty or so before I started cooking. Luckily, Foie de Veau a la Moutarde is pretty damned simple. Eric had bought some really very lovely calves’ liver, sliced a half inch thick. First I dredged these in flour and briefly sauted them in hot butter and oil, just a minute or so on each side. I set them aside in a pan while I beat together three tablespoons of mustard, minced shallots, parsley, garlic, pepper, and the bit of fat from the saute pan. I schmeared this over the liver slices, then laid the slices in fresh bread crumbs that Eric had kindly whipped up for me in the Cuisinart, because what can I say? The man is wildly devoted to me. Once the liver was coated with the crumbs, which I pressed into the liver with my hands to make it stick, I put the slices in a broiling pan, basted them with melted butter, and stuck them under the broiler, for about a minute a side. Voila! Foie de Veau a la Moutarde. It is one of the great oddnesses of life that I have come so to love liver. I love, love, love it. It’s like the silky soul of steak. The crunch of the crust and the bracing sharpness of the mayonnaise cut the richness of the meat, which by itself would be delicious but too much, like really intense sex – almost too much for your system to take. And we ate potatoes too.”

     A sensualist and feminist with a rollicking good humor, Julie Powell adds touches of New York and Texas to the populist legacy of Julia Child. “I like the idea,” she said to me, “that eating well is a universal right, and that you can do it in the midst of the daily Hell that most of us live, especially when you live in an outer borough of New York City.”  The subtitle of her blog is: “Nobody here but us servantless American cooks…” Julie‘s an artistic spirit with a tiresome day job, and a natural home cook. In that way she follows the Laurie Colwin tradition of thoughtful, devoted amateurs–there’s nothing chef-ly about her, but she’s exactly the girl whose kitchen you want to hang out in, whose meals you want to eat.  Blogging was an act of desperation, executed with flair and assurance.  For Julie Powell it was also an introduction to the mystery and magic of the virtual community.  I haven’t met a blogger who’s quite as observant about the extended family, the network of affection and enthusiasm and kitchen wisdom that can be spun by mere software.  There’s homage and self-discovery here.  Listen in

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    I really loved the movie they made from this story. It’s such a shame the real Julia was so mean to Julie – I thought she would have seen the challenge Julie did and the inspiration she became as being the enormous compliment to Julia that it was.