"Julie & Julia" & me

Pass the popcorn, please. Today is the day that’s had bibliophiles and foodies salivating all summer.  The highly-anticipated movie "Julie & Julia," starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, is opening at theaters across the country, and I for one plan to be first in line.
For anyone who’s been, say, backpacking across Mongolia this past month and thus may have missed the media blitz, “Julie & Julia” is based on the eponymous book by Julie Powell, which in turn was based on her blog “The Julie/Julia Project,” a hilariously raucous and occasionally ribald recounting of a year spent cooking her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”  It’s reportedly the first major motion picture to be made of a blog (Hollywood?  I have a blog, too – call me!), although it’s also based on Julia Child’s “My Life in France,” a deliciously ebullient reminiscence of the author’s years abroad as a newlywed during which she discovered her calling in life.  Writer-director Nora Ephron adapted both best-selling memoirs for her screenplay, and I can’t wait to see how she’s managed it, because any way you slice it, the convergence of books, food, and film is a tasty troika indeed.

I also can’t wait to watch Meryl Streep sink her teeth into the role of Julia Child.

Growing up as I did in ‘60s and ‘70s, the heyday of PBS’s surprise hit The French Chef, Julia and her gleeful warble were part of the soundtrack of my childhood.  Although to my knowledge my mother never attempted a single featured dish – about as French as our family got was Chicken à la King – oh did she ever love to watch Julia in action.  Who didn’t?

Once, when I was in my teens, I got to see her in action for myself when my aunt took me to downtown Boston for a book signing-cum-cooking demonstration.  The place was mobbed.   Julia was as larger-than-life in real life as she was on TV (at six foot two, she was the same height as my aunt, a fact which endeared her to my aunt forever), and she gamely wise-cracked her way through what to her must have been just another publicity event, but to us was a once-in-a-lifetime Julia sighting, long to be savored.  I can’t remember which recipe she made for us from her then-hot-off-the-press “From Julia Child’s Kitchen,” but I know that a whisk was brandished, and I recall much enthusiastic beating of ingredients.

Perhaps a similar personal experience inspired author Amy Bronwen Zesmer, whose 2008 young adult title "Dear Julia," a tale of a shy high school girl with culinary aspirations and a trunk full of unmailed letters to her role model, is being re-promoted by HarperCollins, who is clearly hoping to surf the wave of enthusiasm for all things Julia.

Julie Powell and Julia Child.  Two very different women; two very different books; one shared passion for food and life.  Toss in a talented screenwriter and the result could be a feast indeed.  Here’s hoping it is.

Heather Vogel Frederick is not a foodie, she just likes to eat.  Her latest novel for young readers, Dear Pen Pal, will be published next month by Simon & Schuster.  She blogs at http://heathervogelfrederick.wordpress.com.

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