What Would Julia Have Thought?

I have just returned to Bryn Teg, my mountain retreat in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, after a whirlwind trip to do my share of promoting the about-to-be-released movie, Julie and Julia. After sixteen interviews in one day in Toronto and seventeen in Boston plus a panel discussion following a screening of the film, instead of being drained, I felt exhilarated. There is such an outpouring of affection for Julia that the fun of having her in the guise of Meryl Streep back on the screen is positively infectious.

When I first looked at my schedule I wondered whether I had enough to say about everyone’s favorite cook and if I wouldn’t just be repeating the same old stories. But curiously each interviewer seemed to have a slightly different personal take on the subject and their questions were varied and probing enough to keep things perking. There was one question that persisted, however, and that was: What would Julia have thought of the movie?

There’s no easy answer to that but it’s interesting that it seemed such a concern. It is as though her fans wanted to protect her. Obviously it’s hard for anyone to see herself projected on screen, and the telling characteristics of voice and gesture as acted out by someone else can make one uncomfortably self-conscious. For all her good sportsmanship, I sensed that Julia was rather embarrassed by the Dan Aykroyd caricature on Saturday Night Live. But, first and foremost, Julia was a pro and she valued superior performance. So I am sure she would have admired the marvelous alchemy that takes place as Meryl Streep becomes the essence of Julia before our eyes.

Also, Julia was a bit of a ham, as she would readily admit. She understood that you have to create drama in a role, and a touch of high-pitched exaggeration is part of the game. She certainly would have warmed to the Paris scenes, particularly the moments at the market when those macho French vendors seem enchanted by her exuberance and clear love of food. As for chopping those piles of onions in order to perfect her knife skills, that would have hit home.

Above all, Julia would have been delighted by the young people in the audience who went away thinking cooking was fun and wanted to get into the kitchen with Julia. Julie, as played so engagingly by Amy Adams, begins to really enjoy the challenge she has set herself and she feels empowered by her mentor’s presence.

Julia Child was driven by a sense of mission. She genuinely wanted to teach her fellow Americans the secrets and subtleties and rewards of French cooking. So how could she not appreciate Julie and Julia for awakening a whole new generation to Mastering the Art?

26 Responses to “What Would Julia Have Thought?”

  1. shelby says:

    Can’t wait to see Julia Child played by Meryl Streep!
    And also to see the cameo performance of someone playing
    Judith Jones who brought the whole of French cooking
    to America. What a feast that will be!

  2. Kevin says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  3. Patti Londre says:

    Thanks for being the instrument in history that brought Julia to us. Saw the movie at a charity screening, delightful! Did you like your portrayal?

  4. [...] to end this post, doesn’t Judith Jones’s post make you want to see Julie and Julia? I didn’t particularly enjoy Powell’s book, but [...]

  5. George says:

    Very well put! And was it raining the evening you were asked for dinner?

  6. Pamela says:

    I noticed this morning that Mastering The Art Of French Cooking was #2 on the Amazon best-sellers list. I saw the delightful movie yesterday, and it certainly does make one want to cook. And cook well. I think Julia would be thrilled with that.

    I so enjoyed my perusal of your lovely blog!

  7. Elaine Rosoff says:

    The movie has brought a great deal of interest in Julia’s books particularly Mastering the Art of French Cooking and I was wondering about it’s publication. When was it published, I know 1961, but how many copies were first printed that year and was there more than one run (if that’s the right word). I saw that they were selling them on ebay and one person was saying that his copy said first edition and it still had it’s dust jacket and there was comments on the authors and he said it was August something so I thought if anyone knew about this you would. I was given my copy by Rosemay Manel when I was a very young bride and it just has 1961. She also was tall and so very kind to me that I have always had a special place in my heart for both Rosemary and Julia.

  8. Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write for Food, turned me on to your blog, and I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading The Tenth Muse. Having recently written my own book–part memoir/part cookbook–I was fascinated by your stories of working with writers, and must say I was a bit jealous of all the attention you gave them. Cooking side by side with your authors, or helping them move along with their manuscript? Wow! At any rate, your insights to Julia Child’s life are wonderful to read; I only wish I was one of the many who had the pleasure of meeting her. I look forward to the movie, and I look forward to your next book.

  9. I saw the movie last night and I loved it so! I had read both My Life in Paris and Julie and Julie prior to seeing the movie. I was most fascinated by seeing this fabulous portrayal of Julia and Paul Child’s life together, passion for food and support of one another. A dear, dear relationship. How I wish for one!

  10. Eryn Jones says:

    Dear Judith,
    I found your website while searching for what Julia Child would have thought of Julie and Julia. Your last sentence inspired me to leave a comment, which I would rarely do– especially on someone’s blog which is as well known as yours. I used to be a Pastry Chef, and shied away from “the other side” of the kitchen (that is, everything not pertaining to baking). And somehow, even though I had heard of Julia, I never knew how vast her knowledge of French cuisine was… until now. I am looking forward to reading and attempting some recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I (26) have been “awakened”, thanks to this movie, to the possibility that I too can “master” (or at least learn) how to cook such dished as coq a vin, beef bourguignon, and many others, I’m sure!

    Thank you for publishing her book.

  11. Nan says:

    IF Julia could have seen the women who came to my Julie and Julia party she would have been so tickled – they all adored her and then IF she had witnessed them eating some of her dishes, well, I’m certain she would have felt their love to the bottom of her very generous heart…and IF she had accompanied all 12 of us to the movie she would have known, without a doubt, that while Meryl Streep is one fine actress, no one compares to the original. We loved the movie (I’ve already seen it 3 times!) but more importantly, we love Julia, her books and her great joy in living that is her legacy. Thank you for publishing her book…for giving Julia to us. xo, Nan

  12. [...] Child’s friend and editor (and, a huge culinary powerhouse in her own right). Then, read Judith’s take on how Julia Child would have reacted to the [...]

  13. Anne Olivo says:

    I read “My Life In France” a few months ago, and was totally taken with Julia Childs. (I am half way through Noel Riley Fitch’s biography of Julia, “Appetite For Life”.) Even though I am not a cook (My husband does all the cooking and food shopping.), reading about the creation of “Mastering…” drove me to the bookstore to buy my own copy. Such is the power of Julia’s love for French cuisine and her desire to teach it to us even today. I am very excited that my husband and I are going to make our first visit to Paris in October, and will be able to cook while we are there. We saw the film “Julie and Julia” a few weeks ago and loved it. I think it captures the very special and loving relationship between Paul and Julia Childs, and makes all of us long to be counted among their friends. Thank you for giving us Julia, Simca and Louisette’s book.

  14. Liz says:

    After watching the movie, I was terribly curious to see what your take on it was. Thanks for sharing it with us. While the story of Julie ‘the blogger’ was the jumping off point of the film, I found myself falling in love with Julia Child more than any other aspect of the movie. What a wonderful woman, and what a wonderful role you played in her life.

  15. Vida Burtis says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I saw the movie last night and was thoroughly delighted but I was saddened that Julia didn’t seem to understand Julie. I will be stopping tonight on my way home to get my own copy of Mastering the Art and will be preparing beef bourguignon tomorrow evening for company. Wish me luck!

  16. Dawn says:

    Saw the movie tonight. Hubby and I both loved it. I printed off the recipe for the beef recipe! Might have to try it. Has about a million steps, though. Loved the bits about Julia’s life, too! Read the book about a year or two ago and I loved that, too.

  17. Lynn says:

    After years of making unsuccessful omlets, I finally tried Julia Child’s tips in Mastering. What a lovely surprise! My omlets are ALWAYS successful now! I never would have guessed that the trick was a hot pan & waiting til the butter foam subsided to put in the eggs. Never again do I have to fear making an omlet! Now that Julia Child has made my life easier and happier, I have a renewed interest in reading her book and learning more.

    I saw the movie and I would have preferred to simply see a movie about Julia Child. But I suppose that is because I tried to read Julie Powell’s book and I did not care for it.

  18. Andrew says:

    Thanks for that lovely article. I have seen the movie four times as of now. I really loved Meryl Streep’s performance. I think she played our idea of Julia Child. Thank god you published her book Mrs Jones!

  19. Mike Herbes says:

    I don’t usually write on blogs but had to on yours. You have a very distinctive writing style. A lot of people don’t have that touch, they just drone on and on in the most boring way. But not you – thanks! I can’t wait to try out some of the recipes you have here (after a trip to the market to get the ingredients). Making meals is my favorite hobby. Thanks again!

  20. kenschneider says:

    Yes, but why? Thanks.

    Ken Schneider
    Asst. to Judith Jones

  21. Sarah A. says:

    After making Boeuf Bourgignon and Reine de Saba last night – I get it! I GET the enthusiasm, the joy, the excitement over cooking. I didn’t get it until I tried those exquisite recipes and tasted something so sublime…that came from MY kitchen. I’ve watched Julie & Julia 5 times now (3 times in the theater!) and I just fell in love with France and Julia Child. I get it. I can’t wait to do it all over again…I wish every day was Sunday & a chance to spend 6 hours in the kitchen!

  22. I just saw you on Martha Stewart and you were fabulous. I love your humor, exceptionally funny when you said that you like to say the word BLOB.lol I fell tatally in love with you and now I can’t wait to bye your books, and learn more about you. Thanks.

  23. Diane Dainis says:

    Love your book The Pleasures of Cooking for One. The cheese souffle is wonderful. Can you tell me who makes the small diamond shaped cast iron skillet you show in the book. I just love it.
    Thanks so much,

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