A few years ago, secretary and receptionist Julie Powell attempted to break out of her emotional and existential rut by taking on the daring project of cooking all 524 recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, over the course of one year. The result was a wildly popular blog and a best-selling book, Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. And this August, the movie version will hit the screens, starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Stanly Tucci.
What a lot of you may not know, however, is that the blog, book, and movie are all blatant rip-offs of my own similar project. Julie’s idolization of Julia Child mirrors my own experience as a student of one of the greatest, and one of our least appreciated, celebrity chefs.
Julie and Julia is nothing but a cheap imitation of my book, Steve and the Swede.
Before I joined the Army, I spent a year under the tutelage of the great master, the Swedish Chef. He taught me everything I know but only a fraction of what he knew, and I have spent the last few years trying to retrace those lost steps and find my way once again in the kitchen.
Sensei Swede, as I called him, was a demanding task-master. Part Obi-Wan Kenobi, part Priest Pai Mei, and part Gunny Sergeant Hartman, he would dispense sage advice by the gram, usually cloaked in obtuse koan-like riddles. “Be one with the clarified butter.” And, “Heat cannot be measured by a marking on a dial, but must be experienced by he who seeks to control it.” He banned Crocs in his kitchen years before they were even invented. His answer to nearly every question was “Børk! Børk! Børk!” and yet, each “børk,” through intonation, pitch, and volume, meant something completely different.
But before my story could be told, Hollywood swept down and turned Julie and Julia into household names. Fate can be so cruel.
I mean no disrespect to the late Julia Child, and I’m sure Julie Powers is a very nice person. But to compare Child’s coq au vin to the Swedish Chef’s chicken in a basket is like comparing your child’s refrigerator art to Seurat’s Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte.
See for yourself and decide: