Author: Rick Bayless
Book: Rick Bayless' s Mexican Kitchen
Dishes cooked: Chipotle shrimp, spicy corn, black rice
It was all generically tasty, like something you'd eat at a posh Mexican restaurant where they serve $10 margaritas and the guacamole comes in an actual molcajete. I don't like those molcajetes; how do you ever get them truly clean? None of the pictures were appetizing, so I'm just skipping all that today.
Something else is on my mind.
I saw Julie & Julia a month ago and I appreciated it as the airy, toothsome confection that it was. I didn't give it much thought, but yesterday, I stumbled across this blog post harshing on Julie Powell and decided to offer my own two cents. Because I know how very much it matters.
Julie & Julia has pitted Amy Adams against Meryl Streep, but also Julie Powell against Julia Child. Neither is a fair fight, particularly the latter. Were we meant to compare Child's monumental, hard-won achievement with Powell blogging her way to a book deal? Did Nora Ephron deviously engineer it so people would? Or was it just how the movie shook out?
I was probably one of the few people who went to see Julie & Julia more interested in Julie than Julia. I revere Julia Child, etc., etc., what everyone else says. But I also think Julie Powell is a crazy good writer. Undisciplined and self-absorbed, but she cops to all of it and usually manages to make it amusing. She was miserable and lost and living in New York City, she wrote herself out of a hole, and watching her do it was like seeing a fantastic piece of performance art. I don't begrudge her a thing.
Amy Adams was an ethereal fairy in Enchanted, but she played this saucy, earthy, slightly manic young woman by getting a dowdy haircut and throwing tantrums. SUCH tedious tantrums. Ephron and Adams convey the selfishness and hysteria of Julie Powell, but none of the vitality and charm, none of the kooky intelligence, disarming candor and wild humor that made her blog great. The book was not great, but yes, I thought her blog from which it sprang was great.
I sometimes cringe at the honesty in Powell's work, and she makes choices that strike me as reckless. I don't know how a marriage can survive the excruciating (ouf! trust me) essay about sex that she contributed to Behind the Bedroom Door. (That whole book brought out my inner Victorian, which, to be fair, isn't that hard.) I'm equal parts worried and fascinated to read Powell's forthcoming Cleaving, which I fear will be an expansion of the painful material in that essay. Still. Her writing crackles. She's not a towering icon of our culture like Julia Child, but neither is she a boring drip.