Julia, Julie, and 9/11

Kate, a friend of her’s, and I made our way over to Cherry Hill to watch the film, Julia and Julie. Or was it Julie and Julia? Either way, a young couple abandons Brooklyn for Queens, which is code for “leaving their 20s behind.” He works for an archaeology magazine and she is a wanna-be-writer. She has written one book, but no one was interested. She finds herself, months after 9/11, as a low level bureaucrat dealing with families who have suffered through the attack and health effects on rescue works the governmnent won’t recognize. The young wife, played by Amy Adams, is left adrift amongst completely vapid friends, an emotionally draining job, a crappy kitchen, and general 30ish intellectual New York angst. She does have the support of a loving and understanding husband that gives her the idea of a blog — make everything from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year and blog about it. But, before the credits roll, there is an additional character or two that take up about half of the film — a Julia Child and husband in Paris, 1949. I’m not a big Meryl Streep fan. All of her roles. are. just. so. serious. But she took a character and really made it accessible, funny, and just plain old adorable.  

The time line switches back and forth between Julia Child’s cooking and book writing experience odyssey in France and our contemporary Julie. While blogging about her journey through Frech cooking, there are some rather interesting and near-hysterical scenes of Julia Child going about cooking and writing her book. We then get to watch contemporary Julie transform from a person who had never eaten an egg before, to someone making aspic. A constant sub-text is that Julie ideolized, not so much the person, but the idea of Julia Child and what she, the pearls, live TV, women with careers, purpose, and joy meant — and that it could be attained.

Spoilers coming soon below. You’ve been warned.

Forget everything I said. The above description is about a movie that has nothing to do with cooking, really. Its a story written by a young woman, obviously traumatized by events that occurred 11 months before she began blogging — that she has to relive every day at work. Its obvious the character lost a great deal of direction, stability, and self in those horrible post 9/11 Apocalypic New York Days. [Note: Lonliest place on earth -- cab in lower Manahattan at 5:40 am, Sept 23, 2001. I know. Its cold. Dark. And just like how you imagine the world would end.] And like Julia Child, not knowing what to do with herself outside having kids, the young Julie needed things to fill in the places before she just faded.

Julie said she had been drowning before she “met” Julia Child and took up a frenetic cooking pace while having conversations with her, imaginging she was there. Julie wasn’t looking for Julia, so much as she was looking for solid ground. She had love. She had an adequate living arrangement in a notoriously bad rental market in NYC. She was definitely getting by but she lacked purpose — the mind killer.

 I’ll never forget walking to the nearby coffee shop in my then-neighborhood a month or so after 9/11 and finding the room filled with women under 25 furiously knitting. They’d have weekly classes that would fill up quickly. When we don’t know which way to go, we recede, we go back to what our grand parents did, or what we thought they did. And luckily, the past isn’t always so bad. Heck, my wife looks great in pearls and a dress and I’m sure to thank her every time she makes a great meal. Julie never met Julia and, in fact, its said that Julia didn’t really appreciate the idea of cooking every single recipe in her opus in one year and blogging about it. She felt it… disrespectful. Maybe so. Maybe not. In the end, Julia Child is a person — an important person in the world’s most accessible art form (eating). But that’s not what is at the core. This story was about joy and how it can be attained primarily through butter. And when the economy goes bad, or public transport sucks, or the World Trade Center collapses under the weight of our government’s failure to protect us, its quite comforting and grounding to be able to dress like your grandparents and to cook a really great meal while the family undertakes the radical path of eating together and discussing the day’s events.

Its not about Julia. Its not about Julie. Its not about cooking. Its about people – how they can be torn apart, and how they can be put back together. And if need be, every generation or so. Let us hope it not occurr again. And if it must, may we be well-fed.

With lots of butter.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

The background story.

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