News and links

My last Vegas post is taking a while to write. So to tide you over, here’s some news and links.

Okay I lied, one more thing. I feel the need to complain about Food Network Canada‘s website and advertising. We all know the new fall season of tv shows are coming. They’ve even been advertising them in their commercials, but did you notice that they don’t give any dates? And they don’t have a feature on their website saying when shows start either. When I asked their Twitter account about it, I got back a reply that I should look at their daily schedule. And then they offered to tell me personally if there were specific ones I wanted to know about. Great for me, but sucks for everyone else wondering about what’s going on. Did you know that Top Chef 6 starts on Sept 7? Well I didn’t either, until I scoured the schedule.

Also, I got tired waiting to find out if they were going to broadcast Top Chef Masters, so I recently started watching it online. Am half way through the episodes, and loving it.

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News and links

Haven’t done one of these in a while! I’ve been saving up a bunch of links to share, so enjoy. 🙂

Cdn chefs hot under collar that book on top culinary talent includes no Canucks

Julie & Julia – the movie

Last night a friend of mine and I had the opportunity to see Julie & Julia, the movie by Nora Ephron that is based on My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’Homme and Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell (my reviews of the books are here). Ephron does a good job of using both books to mirror the changes in both of the women’s lives, moving effortlessly between the two time periods.

Julie & Julia PosterOverall, I’d have to say it was a cute movie with laughs and giggles scattered throughout. Meryl Streep does a fantastic and mesmerizing job as Julia Child (and I’m not even a fan of hers), and Stanley Tucci is a great Paul. Amy Adams and Chris Messina, as Julie Powell and Eric respectively, are good as well, but I’d have to say that Streep and Tucci steal the whole movie.

And plot-wise, I’d have to say that Julia Child’s half of the movie steals the show as well. (That probably boosted the acting side as well; it gives you more creativity when you have great material to work with.) While it was good to see how both lives are similar and different, Julia Child’s experiences are so much more interesting. Half-way through the movie, the Julie Powell parts began to drag on a bit and I kept wondering when they’d get back to the Julia Child parts. I honestly would have preferred to see a bio-pic about Child. The movie only touches on parts like McCarthyism, and doesn’t even show any parts about their life in Marseilles or about the start of her TV career.

I am grateful that Ephron manages to make Julie Powell more charming and sympathetic than she comes across in her book, because it made the movie more enjoyable. (And that there is no swearing, although there is still a lot of weeping and drinking.) I was rather amused, however, to discover that my friend found that character to be annoying. And my friend hasn’t even read Powell’s book!

I suspect that food lovers will really enjoy the Julia Child parts of the movie, and will tolerate the rest. Non-foodies may be better off waiting for the movie to go into the cheap theatres or appear on DVD. Whichever you are, I definitely recommend seeing the movie if only to admire Streep’s performance and marvel at Julia Child’s accompishments.

My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’Homme, and Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

Today you get two book reviews in one – My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’Homme, and Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell.

I actually bought my copy of My Life in France way back in March when I picked it up in a clearance sale, but hadn’t gotten around to reading it. I recently picked up one of the (heavily discounted because it’s on the bestseller list) Julie and Julia books. And then I found out that I won a draw for a preview movie ticket, so I figured that I should probably read both books before going to enjoy the movie.

I first started reading Julie and Julia. It was a relatively quick read and I can certainly see how it would appeal to a certain kind of reader. My best description of the book would be to say it’s like Bridget Jones or one of the Shopaholic books, but with a lot of swearing, some food, and less charm. I tried to like this book – I really did. But I have to admit that she got on my nerves.

It’s not so much about the food as a journey that Powell takes to “find herself.” Julia Child and her food just happened to be the tool. To be very frank, there were too many times that I felt like she didn’t like any of the food she was making. And when she did like the food, the descriptions usually ended up being something like “hmm” or “mmm” or “it was good so we ate it” (I’m paraphrasing). There weren’t really many explanations as to why the food tasted good to her, or even in most cases why the food tasted bad.

Half-way through Julie and Julia I HAD to take a break. And so I switched to My Life in France.

This book is not so much an autobiography but is actually a collection of memories and vignettes, accompanied by many fantastic photos taken by Paul, Julia’s husband. I found this book even easier to read than Powell’s book due to the length of each vignette. Similar to a book of short stories, it is a book that can be easily picked up and put down again without interuppting the narrative flow.

Julia and Paul’s adventures in France made for entertaining reading. And, unlike Powell’s book, you can actually feel the passion Child had for food. Food, however, isn’t the only thing that you experience in this book. You get to see post-war France through Child’s eyes, and even some insight into the political life of the U.S. diplomatic service.

This book makes me want to go to France. And to try cooking some of Child’s recipes, whereas Powell’s book gave me very little encouragement to even flip through the cookbooks. If you want to learn about Julia Child, I highly recommend My Life in France. I unfortunately cannot say the same for Julie and Julia, unless you’re looking for chick lit.

I’m seeing the movie tonight, so expect a review in the next couple of days.

Edited to add: After some thought over the past couple of days I decided that I should have added this to my original review. I just wanted to say that my opinion of Julie Powell’s writing is only based on her book, and not the old blog or her current blog. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t read either one. At one point I did read a bunch of her Julie/Julia blog posts around the time that she was finishing her project but I didn’t find it particularly compelling at the time and never bothered to read the whole thing or to continue to follow her. I do admire that she finished the whole project, but I didn’t care for the book and I think I agree with Julia Child’s opinion that it didn’t seem like Julie respected the food.

Great book deals

For the past two days I’ve been at the University of Alberta taking a 3-day course. And this means I’ve had easy access to one of my favourite places in the city, The Book Cellar in HUB Mall. This store is the U of A’s book remainder store and they have a surprisingly large selection of children’s books, non-fiction and fiction. And food-related books.

(Remainders, by the way, are those never-been-read books that publishers have sold to bookstores for dirt cheap because they’re older books and they’re taking up valuable warehouse space. Those “bargain books” with the red and white price tags, sitting in the front section of the Chapters/Coles/Indigo store? All remainders and almost pure profit. You’d be shocked at the profit margin.)

l bought a lot of books. So many that the cashier gave me an extra 25% off my purchase. It’s probably a good thing for my wallet that I don’t go there very often. I hope I didn’t giggle in glee too loudly while I was immersed in the stacks. Some of these were books that I had on my to-buy list already and I saved a nice amount by picking up these copies instead.

So which food books did I get? Everything was in hardcover, prices not including the extra discount:
Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop – $7.99
My Grandmother’s Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Lo – $7.99
The Seventh Daughter by Cecilia Chiang – $7.99
My Life in France by Julia Child – $5.99
Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch – $5.99

They also had a Charlie Trotter cookbook that I looked over, but I decided that it was probably something I’d never cook from and that I had already picked up too many books.

Let’s see if I can resist going back there tomorrow during our class break.

Side note: while I was typing this out, Alton Brown made candied ginger, ginger cookies and ginger ale. Mmmm. Too bad it was only on my TV and not in my kitchen.