We returned from our brief vacation on Saturday, but when I requested time off from work, I also requested today off because, well, I don’t like working on my birthday! Shaun took the day off too, and we went to a matinee. We go to a movie every year on my birthday, though by the end of August the marquee is a bit bare.
This year we saw Julie and Julia, with Meryl Streep as legendary chef Julia Child. I did enjoy the movie and Meryl Streep was great. But I particularly liked the way the movie highlighted, intentionally or not, the generational gap between Julie and Julia.
Julia Child was living with her husband in Paris in the 1950s, looking for something to do. She attends Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, the only female in an otherwise male class. She has no fear, no worries, she practices and she has a great attitude about everything. In a scene from her show, watched by Julie Powell, the modern day blogger cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she flips an omelet and half of it lands on the stove. No matter, she puts it back and says you can fix it up and no one will notice. Child writes her cookbook and builds a cooking empire later in her life, enjoying her accomplishments every step of the way.
Julie, on the other hand, afraid at 30 that her life is passing her by, starts cooking her way through Child’s cookbook. When she messes up a dish she winds up on the floor crying.
Comparing this scenario to my life, my husband is Julia Child and I am Julie Powell. My husband likes to cook and is good at it. I try to cook but just wind up messing things up and getting frustrated. A hissy fit ensues 90% of the time. I remember once my husband showing me how to smash garlic with the side of a knife, telling me not to worry if the garlic slipped out and hit the floor. “Just think like Julia Child,” he told me. “She wouldn’t care that she threw garlic on the floor, she’d just get another piece.”
I’d really like to be Julia Child. In the kitchen or in really any scenario that comes my way in life. But I’m not.
It is revealed in the movie that Julia Child didn’t care for Julie Powell’s blog. She called it “disrespectful.” At the time Powell was blogging, Child was about 90 years old. I can see how a person of an older generation who built her own empire out of nothing might think it disrespectful for a person to gain money and fame for simply following a bunch of recipes and writing about it. There’s nothing in such an idea that is particularly original, in the way that Julia Child created a French Cookbook in English, for Americans, when there was no such thing.
But we are of a different generation. There’s not much original left in the world, and a huge part of anybody’s identity is formed based on “things” they like. (Music, Literature, Julia Child, etc.) The way that Julie Powell optioned her love of Julia Child is what passes for original nowadays.
Perhaps it’s this reliance on others to provide an identity that causes us, me, to throw a fit when a dish doesn’t turn out or trying to figure out how to get the fabric softener cup out of the laundry machine. (Pull.)
Two of the greatest things about my husband are his love of experimentation and resilience about the outcome. He set our wok on fire the other day. Didn’t phase him. He put out the fire and started again. Me, I would have stormed out of the kitchen crying and swearing off cooking for good.
I’ve felt like my attitude has been worsening lately, unhappy a bit with my job and a lot with my commute and just having things be not exactly how I want them to be. I’ll never be Julia Child, attitude-wise, I’m not asking to be. But I don’t want to be Julie Powell either. But, like both of them, I would like to have a hobby that results in the creation of something. I’d like to improve upon my non-book-learning, life skills, secure in the knowledge there’s no success like failure. But as an (mostly) A student who’s been taught that failure’s no success at all, I often become too frustrated to learn from my mistakes.
I’ll work on it and get back to you though, like the good student I am.