“Pops” and I just finished watching Julie and Julia, the blog-turned-book-turned movie about Julie Powell’s yearlong journey through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Last summer I read Child’s memoirs, My Life in France, in which she recounts moving to France with her husband Paul in the 1940s, speaking not a word of French and having no idea what she’d do with herself while her husband was at work.  As everyone now knows, she ended up falling in love with everything French, especially French food, and learned how to cook, then brought French cooking into everyday American kitchens.  Her cookbook took several forms and involved various cooks, writers, photographers and editors over more than 8 years, but finally it was published.  Julie Powell’s blog chronicled her attempts at every recipe in the book over a period of 365 days at a point in her life where she felt lost, directionless, and doomed to failure.

The movie had its faults, but what “Pops” walked away with was this:  Julie Powell’s mother, whom we know in the movie merely as a voice on the telephone, is portrayed as this negative, pessimistic, nagging parent.  Most of Julie’s friends are portrayed as materialistic, shallow, self-centered, joyless even in their wealth and professional success.  Even Julie’s husband in the movie was, I thought, a bit of a bump on a log.  So, as Pops noticed, for Julie to “find” Julia and to get to know her (or her idea of Julia) through her experience of cooking and writing, meant that Julie found someone whose way of living and being granted her new life in a very real sense.  From Julia, Julie learned to master not only the art of French cooking but the art of living. 

In Julia Child’s memoirs, one gets the sense that even as she moved from place to place (for her husband’s government service appointments), Julia bloomed where she was planted.  And even though she and her husband were never able to have children, her works (her cookbook, her memoirs, her television cooking lessons) had such a far-reaching impact.  In this movie, Julia Child “mothers” Julie Powell, even though they never meet, in a way that Julie’s never did.

What a great thing to remember:  that our works, whether they be our children or our passions or our jobs, or even our actions in daily life, have such an impact.  They may inspire people to do great things or even just to do something different.  I’d like my friends and family to help me remember to live in such a way that I can be confident that my impact, however small, is a positive one.  Since I do have a child, I ask my loved ones to remind me, when I get down deep in day-to-day annoyances or my own moods or stresses, to pay attention to how I am living– to think about the sort of impact I am making on my daughter.  I hope that her childhood memories of me are that I was a joyful person attuned to and grateful for all the richness that life offers.  That I bloomed where I was planted.  That I pursued my passions with singleminded dedication and perseverance but without forgetting the daily joys of family and friends.  I hope that when AE is a young woman making her way in the world, that she can think of her mother, as I do my own mother, as an example she wants to emulate.  My parents bring so much joy to those around them, make people feel so loved and unique and supported; they take joy in the pleasures of life such as good food, beautiful art, fellowship.   As I continue to make my way in the world, and support my children in their own journeys, I want to say “thank you”– thank you for showing me what it means to have a “good appetite” for life.

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