August 23, 2009
Jonathan Wenk/Columbia Pictures
I saw "Julia and Julie" last weekend and was very moved. I suppose my reaction had much to do with my own relationship with Julia Child. I used to joke that I took Julia to bed with me most nights at college -- I meant the book, of course. I read both volumes cover to cover, and I cooked my way through most of the recipes. I also watched her various TV shows with rapt attention. My favorite was the Chicken Marengo show, when she butchered a chicken with a cavalry saber as she recounted Napoleon's victory in the decisive Battle of Marengo.
There is no doubt that memories of food and the social context of food -- preparing it and partaking of it -- are among the most potent that humans have. And I was reminded of this power as I reviewed the draft of a cookbook, Recipes Remembered, which will be published in association with the Museum some time next year. The author, June Hersh, interviewed a number of Holocaust survivors and others whose lives were disrupted by the Holocaust, and recounts their stories including one or more recipes of defining dishes. Altogether a charming project.
Getting back to the film. Meryl Streep's Julia is uncanny. She delivers a miraculous performance that captures Julia perfectly -- including Julia's saucy side. Streep is also a favorite of mine for many reasons, not the least of which is the magical job she did for us on our audio tour. She and Yitzhak Perlman accompany our visitors through the core exhibition with warmth and sensitivity.