29 August 2009

Julie and Julie & Julia. Oh, and mayo.

I went to the Alamo Drafthouse a couple weeks ago and saw Julie & Julia "with" other Austin area food bloggers. I say "with" because there wasn't much talking, mostly watching, which was sort of a relief. I had read all the reviews of the movie and was sort of apprehensive. They mostly all said the same thing: Meryl Streep is a vision as Julia Child and Amy Adams can't hold her own against the actress, though she is handicapped by her role because the story of Julie Powell isn't nearly as intriguing.

In a way, they're totally right. I first picked up the book in the fall of 2007 because I saw my name on the cover, which was impetus enough for me to flip it over and read the dust jacket. This was around the time that I first started cooking, so the theme of the book resonated with me. Not wanting to actually pay for it myself, it made its way onto my Christmas list and my little brother got it for me. I read it in the span of about three days when I went to D.C. for New Years and I was really glad that I didn't pay for it myself.

The book and movie are set up in a similar fashion. It weaves the stories of Julie and Julia's lives in a way similar to the way the Earth (Julia) and Moon (Julie) orbit the sun together. No, the Moon does not actually orbit the Earth, it orbits the Sun, but it sure does look like the Moon is orbiting the Earth. Astronomy references aside, they both tell their separates stories together, except that in the book, Julie Powell made up stories about what Julia's life was like and in the movie, Julia's story was adapted from her autobiography My Life In France. I highly recommend that book. The fictitious Julia scenes in Julie&Julia(thebook) were kind of stupid and MLiF is a really sweet story told by Julia about the great loves of her life: Paul, food, and France.

By the time I went to see the movie, it had been awhile since I had read J&JtB, but MLiF was fresh in my memory. On the Julie side of the movie, it softened her imaged and rounded the corners of her pricklyness. She was still portrayed as rather self-centered, but in a way that didn't necessarily make you hate her, unlike the book; meltdowns seemed the exception, not the rule. For this, I'm grateful to Amy Adams for making me feel less stupid for going to see the movie; however, the Julia side was rife with inaccuracies that bothered me. Now don't get me wrong, Meryl Streep plays an amazing, impressive Julia Child. She makes up for the height differential by the cadence of her voice and her movements as she really becomes Julia, but the story wasn't 100% true to MLiF.

My Life In France is as much a love story between Julia and Paul Child as it is between Julia and French cuisine. The movie makes their (julia and paul) relationship much more lustful than loving... i.e. I could have done with way fewer Julia Child sex scenes. And I think the scene that bothered me the most was when they showed her famous mortar and pestle on her counter with a big red bow atop as a gift. In the book, she and Paul went around the markets and she found a giagantic mortar and pestle and Paul lovingly carried the large thing on his shoulders all the way back to their car. It's one of the most touching parts of her book and it's completely misrepresented in the movie. Her difficult relationship with Simca was also glossed over, as well as the timeline of her relationship with Avis de Soto, but most glaring of all Meryl Streep is WAY too old to play out most of the early scenes in the movie. She was in her mid thirties when she attended Le Cordon Bleu, and though Meryl Streep did a wonderful job, she definitely did not look anywhere near 30... or even 40.

In all, though, it was a wonderful movie and my complaints are nitpicking. I loved the movie and it inspired me to try to cook more often and with more creativity. In fact, shortly before the movie came out, I bought a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and until the movie came out, I hadn't really used the book. Shortly thereafter, I made her scrambled eggs (whoa em gee. so good!) and tonight I made mayonnaise... by hand. It turns out that she definitely knew what she was talking about.

3 egg yolks, room temperature
1/2+ tsp salt
1/4+ tsp mustard (I used dijon because I hate yellow)
1 T+ acid (I used white wine vinegar, but is interchangable with lemon juice)
1 2/3c olive oil
2 T crazy hot water

1)Take a metal mixing bowl and run under hot water to make warm. Wipe dry with a cloth.

2)Beat the 3 egg yolks with a wire whisk until they're "sticky" (Julia's word not mine). This should take 1-2 minutes.

3)Whisk in 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t mustard, and 1T acid until combined, about 30 seconds.

4)Begin whisking the mixture and add in the oil a few drops at a time. Julia suggests that you whisk at least 2 sweeps per second. Don't stop whisking. After about 1/3-1/2 c of oil is incorporated, it should be cream-like and sticky-ish again. At this point you can stop your continual whisking and add in the oil about 1-2 T at a time. If the mixture gets too thick, then add in more acid a couple drops at a time to thin it out. Also, hot water will be added at the end so don't get to carried away.

5) Once all the oil is incorporated, whisk in 2 T of hot water. Julia says that this is a safeguard against separation. After, season with the mustard, salt, acid, and pepper to taste. (I ended up adding more salt.)

I ended up with a little under 2 cups. It's different than Helmann's and I would argue to say much more flavorful and way less gross. ;) Be sure to refrigerate if you're not using it right away and put it in an airtight container. If you put plastic wrap down over the top, it won't develop that gross film on top that so defines mayo.

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