Julie, Julia, and Sue J

JuliaYesterday afternoon we saw “Julie & Julia,” and I heartily recommend it. No, it’s not the “perfect” movie, but unlike all the other worthless junk that is floating out there, it’s actually worth the price of a ticket. (Remember when there was an actual “Sunday matinee”?  How is it that now when you try to see a movie on the cheap, the only “reduced” price $6 tickets are for shows that start before noon, but the movies all seem to begin at 12:10? Hmmm?)

Unnamed Partner and I are both foodies at heart — she the better chef, but I have great appreciation for good food, even if I can’t always reproduce it. So we were in heaven (and very hungry) for most of the movie.  And yes, when we went home we sat on the front porch and had a lunch of french bread and brie and a little red wine. We will make that boef bourignon one day …

As many others have said, I wish there were more of Julia Child’s life and a little less of Julie Powell’s, although there were parts of the modern story that I enjoyed too. (More on that later.) About Julia and Paul Child:  there are  many similarities between their lives in the 1940s and 50s and that of my own parents, and it was touching to see those scenes. My parents also met when they both worked for the OSS during the war (and no, they were not spies. At least we don’t think they were …!) I believe they met the Childs’ once at a party — you see, after the war, my father also went to work for the State Department, just like Paul Child, and they were stationed abroad in several places during their time. They never got a glamorous post like Paris —  my father first received an assignment to The Hague, only to find out at the last minute that he was instead being sent to Karachi, Pakistan.

After several years in Pakistan, my parents were sent to Izmir, Turkey, which is where my oldest brother was born. After a couple of years there, my parents were assigned to San Jose, Costa Rica, which is where my other brother and I were born. After a few years there, my father received  a desk assignment in Washington, DC,  staying there until he transferred over to the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration, where he stayed until he retired in the late 1980s.

I tell you all this because I have heard so many of their stories about those days in the Foreign Service, but watching this movie I felt like I was experiencing some what my parents lived through. The sets were fantastic, and I hope they get some nominations for the costumes. And the martinis! Until the day my father retired, my mother always had a small pitcher of martinis ready when he walked in the door at the end of the day. (They now have a nightly sherry.) Watching this movie, I really felt like I was spying on my parents as they mingled with the other Embassy folks. (You notice there were no children there, right?  My only embassy-related memory is this: Christmas Eve, we went to a party at the home of the Nicaraguan Ambassador to the US in, maybe 1965 or ’66 (so I would have been 4 or 5 years old), and the kids were sent upstairs to watch t.v. But at midnight we all went down to the basement where they were celebrating Mass and this is what I remember: incense! So much incense!)

Back to the movie: the idea that Julie child needed to find something to do was very true. You see, until sometime in the 1980s there was a “support” group called “The Association of Foreign Service Wives.” They are now called “Spouses,” but when my parents served, women did not serve as Foreign Service Officers, only as wives. But they did serve — wives were expected to throw parties for visiting dignitaries and local government big-shots. They were part of the package — an unpaid civil servant, really. So the wives took language lessons, and yes, they had classes in things like hat-making. My mother, fortunately, was able to return to a lifelong love of hers and take lessons in watercolor and oil painting.

My mother was not a great cook — she was a good cook, though, and she always tried to make healthy food for us — we begged for “sloppy joes” like the other kids got, but nooooo!  However, she never really seemed to enjoy it, and it always seemed like more of a chore for her. She had certain dishes she could make that were always hit with us — brown betty! —  and we usually hosted either Thanksgiving or Christmas at our house and she got up early and always made a delicious and beautiful turkey. So as my brothers and I got older we began to tinker in the kitchen and wanted to try some more exotic things. That was when I began to realize that my mother had a stash of old cookbooks with recipes for French and Spanish dishes. I plan to go look for some of those cookbooks next week ….

If you are still reading this, I think it’s safe to say you have a feel for the world of blogging. So the other half of the movie is also worth a mention. In a way, I really felt like I was watching two separate movies, and I liked them both in their own ways.  Any blogger worth their salt felt immediate kinship with the development of her blog. The first days when you don’t know if anyone is reading. The excitement of comments! The, as your readership grows, the feeling of responsibility to this thing, the feeling that you must not disappoint your readers.  Because as insecure and neurotic as we all are, bloggers are basically shouting out every day: “Read me! read me!” So it does indeed become extremely narcissistic. Our partners should have their own support group.  because sometimes, you know, they love the blog. They’re proud of us for getting some recognition, and they’re happy because we’re happy. But then … the laptop comes out on vacation. Or after a nice dinner. Or when they haven’t seen us all day and they thought maybe we could sit on the couch together and watch the latest Netflix that came today.

We are a self-absorbed lot, it is true.

I have a feeling I’m going to keep thinking about both halves of the movie, as separate as they are to me. So there may be more posts on this (especially if I find out my mother has a copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”!)

But for now, does anyone have agood recipe for bruschetta?


  1. You need a recipe for bruschetta? Do what I do: Invite my Italian friend over when I believe I have absolutely nothing to eat in the house. It is amazing. One loave of bread, fresh garlic,bottle of wine and one Italian. It is a two for one for me. She makes bruschetta and I get rid of left overs and items that have been hiding in the back of the pantry I forgot about.

  2. I must go see that movie, it sounds as if it would be very interesting. I really enjoyed hearing about your parents and their lives in the foreign service!

  3. Sue J –

    Yes it was a good movie, but I disagree with almost everyone on the Julie Powell part. Here, take my quiz:

    1) Would you pay to see the Julia Child part again?
    2) Would you pay to see the Julie Powell part again?

    Naw, me either.

    My bruschetta is pretty basic: rub half a clove of garlic over a thick slice of rustic bread — because I’m here in the SF Bay Area, for me it is always sourdough — then brush on some good quality olive oil. Grill it until it is toasted, and maybe a little bit burned here and there. Put on it something chopped from your garden, tomatoes, basil, etc. Enjoy it with a glass of wine and good company.

    This week I am putting figs and Mancheco cheese on mine because the fig tree is producing.



  4. Tengrain! Now I am starving! But thank you for the recipe — I know it’s incredibly simple, but I’ve never made it before.

    {hangs head in shame}

    I agree that the Julie Powell part of the movie was weak, and it certainly never would have been successful as its own story without intertwining Julia Child’s story. Maybe I’m just still such a newbie blogger that I did kind of empathize with the blog part. But no, not enough to justify the $8 ticket!

    I apologize to everyone for this long post — I just looked at it again and thought “Man! who’s going to wade through that?!

    So, thanks, if you did!

  5. “my mother always had a small pitcher of martinis ready when he walked in the door at the end of the day”

    i know i would REALLY like your mother!! how sensible of a woman she must be!

    i am a total foodie and can’t wait to see the movie. and you know, all the true jello heads made it the whole way through the blog, hanging on every word!

  6. I loved learning all about your family, Sue, and I read the whole thing! It is no wonder you are so talented, coming from such an international family.

    I had to smile as you described the love/hate relationship our “significant others” have with our blogging. You nailed that.

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