I saw the movie Julie & Julia last night with Cindy Wolf, executive chef at Charleston restaurant, at an early screening at the Landmark Theatre. We really don’t know each other. But we connected over Julia Child.
We both have Julia experiences—more about that in a minute—and had read the books Julie & Julia and My Life in France on which the movie is based.
When I was talking to Cindy last week about the time she spent with Julia, she said she couldn’t wait to see the movie, which opens to the public Aug. 7. I had passes to the preview, and next thing I knew, I asked her to go with me.
It was great. We loved the movie. It’s laugh-out-loud funny.
Meryl Streep is the perfect Julia with her distinctive voice and towering presence. Director Nora Ephron did a terrific job of blending the two stories, starting with Julia Child eating sole meuniere (her breakthrough eating moment!) in France in 1949 and intermingling Julia’s cooking discoveries with the saga of secretary Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams). Feeling stuck in a dead-end job, Julie decided to write a blog in 2002 about making all the recipes from Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking—536 recipes in 365 days.
The movie is about more than cooking—though anyone who’s been in a kitchen will appreciate the "lobster killer" scene and charred boeuf bourguignonne. It’s also about relationships, honesty, and self discovery.
Spoiler alert here: There is a downer part about how Julia Child reacts when someone tells her about Julie’s blog. Julia evidently doesn’t like it, and Julie is crushed.
Cindy Wolf and I were talking about this afterward. We both were surprised because Julia was so gracious in our dealings with her. We wondered if perhaps the person who told this to Julie had it wrong.
Of course, we’ll never know since Julia died in 2004 at age 91. With the anniversary of her death, Aug. 13, and her birth, Aug. 15, along with the movie, coming up, I expect there will be a lot of Julia remembrances going on.
I had the fortune to hang out with Julia for three days in 1999 when I was the food editor at The Sun and writing a story about her visit. She was being honored by the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food.
I actually sat with her for several hours in her room at the Admiral Fell Inn and then walked along Broadway in Fells Point with her. Once word got around, chefs and shop owners came out of their businesses to greet her. She was 86 then, using a cane, but stopped to talk to each person.
Cindy Wolf has blogged about her own Julia experience. I hope you’ll read it. I really like this part: "The day Julia Child walked through the door of the restaurant was one of the best days of my life."
Cindy doesn’t remember the exact year she cooked for Julia at Charleston, but Julia was in Baltimore again in 2001. It could have been then.
The chef knows the menu, though: cornmeal fried oysters, tiny lump crab cake, chilled avocado soup, pan-roasted sea scallop with fresh black truffle and cauliflower leek cream, sauteed veal sweetbreads, fresh fava beans, and shiitake mushrooms in a white-wine pan sauce.
No wonder Julia was impressed. During the meal, Julia asked Cindy, "Why haven’t I heard of you?" She also told Cindy she should write a cookbook.
She hasn’t, but Cindy is an avid reader of all kinds of books. Currently, she’s reading Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connection by Karen Hess. It’s on my list now, too.
When the movie was over, I walked to Charleston with Cindy, who was going back to the kitchen. As we said goodbye, we laughed. We realized Cindy was wearing pearls with her chef jacket. It was so appropriate.
Julia Child was known for her pearls, and Julie Powell started wearing pearls, too, in honor of Julia.
As I left, I heard Cindy cheerfully greet diners leaving the restaurant, "Thank you for coming. How was your dinner?"
Echoes of Julia. Nice.