Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Julie Powell's Cleaving cuts close to the bone to expose the marrow of a marriage

After the publication of her blogger memoir,Julie and Julia, chronicling her determination to make every one of Julia Child's 524 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and before the release of the film adaptation of her book this past summer,Julie Powell decided to go on another culinary quest for edible enlightenment.

This new food challenge,however,involved more of a real life,hands on approach to the subject at hand.

Julie wanted to learn the art of meat cutting and after a bit of a search,she found a place that was willing to take her on as an apprentice,Fleisher's Meats in Kingston,NY. The work was physically hard,but the folks at Fleisher's were friendly and patient enough that Julie soon became one of them. Her time there taught her a lot of new things,including respect for the band saw as well as those less glamorous portions of meat that most people wouldn't consider serving up at home:

Butchery has usually been a male dominated domain,but Julie was readily accepted into that band of blood brothers and after her apprenticeship was up,she traveled overseas to learn more about it in places like Argentina,the Ukraine and a Masai village in Tanzania.

Julie's experiences lead her to making new friends and exploring an amazing realm of savory flavors and recipes(which are included in just about every chapter). She also became a convert to the sustainable meat movement,which offers up just as healthy an eating lifestyle as vegetarianism can(ironically enough,one of the owners of Fleisher's was a vegan for over a decade)and is rapidly growing in support and supply all over the place:

This new food odyssey that Julie Powell undertakes is darker in tone than those only familiar with the movie version of Julie and Julia might expect and not just due to the raw descriptions of carving up sides of meat and slaughtering animals for food prep purposes(she observes this,for the most part).

Her new book Cleaving is subtitled "Marriage,Meat and Obsession" for a good reason. The marriage and obsession parts merge together as Julie throws herself into her butchery studies to avoid dealing with the effects of an extramarital affair and her longing for D,the elusive bad boy type that Julie had said affair with and becomes fixated on,even when they break up for good.

I suspect that some may want to judge her harshly on this(particularly because she's a woman)and while her behavior is not commendable here,it's really not up to the reader to decide her guilt level on this messy emotional matter. Julie's willingness to lay bare her mixed feelings about her love for her husband,her passion for D and the direction in which her life is going makes her only human,just like the rest of us.

That she finds it easier to dissect meat than the problems facing her at home is no different than Don Draper being more comfortable at Sterling Cooper than with his suburban wife and family or Buffy drowning her post afterlife sorrows in the arms of Spike. The main difference is that Julie is not a fictional character whose transgressions may be more forgivable or less hard to swallow by a viewing ,or in this case reading, audience.

So,is Cleaving a good read? Yes,it is a compelling narrative that provides some tough yet tender meat to chew on and while it may not be for the faint of heart,the book does show how seeking new horizons can lead to finding peace of mind(of sorts) after a bad romance. Cleaving may not have the feel good flavor of Julie and Julia but it does satisfy a reader's hunger to know more about the art of butchery and dealing with a rough patch of your love life:

1 comment:

Ladytink_534 said...

I haven't read Julie & Julia yet but it is on my TBR pile. I heard about her doing this though. I'm really, really weird about my food. If I think about it coming from a particular animal it makes me literally sick to my stomach. If I wasn't so fond of the taste of meat I could very, very easily be a vegan.

Major props with the Spike pic :)