Julie & Julia, Week 3

Welcome to the third Online Book Club discussion of Julie & Julia. (Available to download as an ebook or audiobook.)

How was your reading experience this week? Did you find yourself wanting to head into the kitchen after reading about Julie's escapades? I confess that reading this section did not make me want to cook; instead, it made me feel a little stressed out. I just felt for Julie with all of the dirty dishes and plumbing problems. I can't imagine cooking in that kind of space. Do you think you would have been able to keep up with the project after encountering any of the obstacles she encountered? 

Julie starts this section by talking about Samuel Pepys, a man who religiously recorded his life for nine years. Had you heard of him before? If you're curious about his life, check out this quick biography on BBC History. And, if you want to read some of his diary entries, check out pepysdiary.com. I can't really imagine recording everything about my life for nine years, but I admire those who do. Do you keep a diary? Do you think you'd be able to keep a diary without missing a day for years? 

Early in these chapters, Julie mentioned going to a grocery store called Western Beef. Had you ever heard of this chain? I had never heard of the store, but Julie made me think that it was a worthwhile place. Check out their website to see their interesting mascot. To me, the mascot doesn't really scream grocery store, but I appreciate the creativity. Whenever Julie mentioned going to the grocery store, I couldn't help thinking that grocery shopping in the city sounds impossible. I imagine that it would be so hard to get groceries home using mass transit, and I can't imagine all of the lines and crowds. And I can't imagine how much money she was spending on all of those supplies. The cuts of meat she used had to be really expensive. I was glad that she started getting some financial help on the blog by the end of the chapters we read. It's interesting how early blogs could have a donate button so that readers could directly support the blogger. I don't think I've ever seen that on a contemporary blog—it seems like blogs are self-sustaining with sponsored content and advertisements. 

Obviously, Julie spent most of these chapters talking about the food she made. Did any of the recipes stand out to you? The aspics sounded horrible. I wasn't even sure what an aspic was, but it sounded like something I definitely didn't want to eat. Every time Julie talked about it, I had a vision of cat food in my head. If you're curious about what aspic is or what it looks like, check out "What is Aspic?" to learn more. I can definitively say that I will not attempt to make aspic, but I was intrigued by some of the desserts Julie mentioned. Julie mentions making a Bavarois à l'Orange, and her description sounded tasty enough that I ended up finding an online recipe for it. I don't think I will actually make it because it feels past my skill level, but it looks like a gorgeous dessert. You might be more courageous than I am, though, so feel free to check out the recipe on La Cucina Italiana. Do you remember when Julie attempts to take that Charlotte Malakoff au Chocolat to work but drops it on the sidewalk and breaks her pan? I thought the Charlotte Malakoff sounded really good. Check out this blog post with the recipe—the dessert looks delicious, and the blog post contains pictures of Julia Child making the recipe. Based on the pictures in the post, it doesn't seem like Julia Child was too fussy in her baking. She had some broken ladyfingers, too, but she still presented her dessert with pride.

The aspic chapter was gross, but I think the hardest chapter to read was the lobster chapter. I just don't think I could cook a lobster, and I definitely know that I couldn't cut into a live one. What did you think of the parts where Julie was describing killing the lobsters? Do you think she was being dramatic? Do you think you could follow one of those recipes? 

Near the end of these chapters, Julie almost abandons the project but decides to keep going. I admire her commitment to the project, but I wonder if she is really doing it for herself or if she's doing it for the validation she receives. What is your take on her motivation? Do you think she would have lasted more than a couple of weeks if she hadn't gotten positive comments? I just feel like the project adds so much stress to her life, and I'm not seeing that it adds much joy. 

Has this section convinced you to watch the movie yet? Do you want to see how all of Julie's mishaps play out on screen? If you haven't seen the movies and are curious about what it took to get all of these dishes to the big screen, check out this article from LA Weekly about the movie's food stylist. 

Before you head into the last section of the book, take a moment to watch this video in which Julia Child cooks with Martha Stewart. 

I hope you enjoyed these chapters and are excited to finish the book for next week. Make sure to leave me a comment to tell me a recipe that you would like to try. Or, tell me a recipe that you would definitely skip! I can't wait to hear from you in the comments section.