Sunday, August 16, 2009

Julie and Julia - a Cinematic Feast

So after I had that sumptuous feast at the Loveless Cafe in Nashville (did I mention that the fried chicken and biscuits were divine?), I went to see the film "Julie & Julia," starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as the 30 year old Julie Powell, looking for meaning in life and finds it by cooking - in one year - all 524 recipes in Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Let me say that I almost always fall asleep in films, no matter how good they are. Not this time. I was charmed, tickled, and heartwarmed throughout "Julie & Julia." It is an utterly captivating film, seamlessly moving back and forth between Julie's and Julia's lives. Streep's performance channels Child in a way that is astonishing. At times you mix up the real Julia with Meryl. You would expect Adams to be blown away by Streep, but she holds her own quite nicely, as does the underrated but always outstanding Stanley Tucci as Julia's husband, Paul Child.

The only minor flaw was that it became a bit too obvious at times that Streep was assisted by platforms, booster seats, and super high heels to appear as tall as the real Julia Child.

The film's main point is the need in life to have passion and meaning in whatever you are doing, and to pursue it relentlessly.

Of course, this film now takes its place at the very top of the pantheon of great movies about food, right up there with Ang Lee's "Eat Drink Man Woman," the two remakes in different cultures, "Soul Food," and "Tortilla Soup," with all three using food as a metaphor for love.

"Babette's Feast" deserves mention, because of its wonderful theme of food as metaphor for God's grace: wonderful, without cost, and transformational for the receiver; costly, daunting, and a labor of love on the part of the giver.

Some would probably name "My Dinner Andre," but I haven't seen it, and I am no longer as much into arthouse films as before. Maybe others can give their opinion.

To go from the sublime to the ridiculous, perhaps the two most memorable food preparation scenes to me are Clemenza making spaghetti for the mafia soldiers in "The Godfather," and Paulie in "Goodfellas" shaving garlic slices with a razor blade so the garlic would liquefy in a pan with a little olive oil, and the other mafiosi making spaghetti sauce (beef, pork, and veal for the meatballs, but you've got to have the pork because that's the flavor), and steak ("Medium aristocrat!").

Grace and aloha,


P. S. This season's semifinal show of The Next Food Network Star featured the three semifinalists watching an advance screening of "Julie & Julia," and creating a gourmet meal for chefs.

Melissa D'Arabian, the eventual winner, uttered some of the most profound words I've heard in a long time, let alone from a reality food show. She came out in front of the chefs and said that she had heard recently that one should not be afraid of failure; that one should be afraid of success in the wrong thing. After sharing that she had achieved corporate-world success, her mind was full, but her soul was undernourished. This led her to her passion for cooking and seeking the position with the Food Network. She quoted Julia Child's now famous "Don't be afraid!" And then she said, "So I'm standing before you, not afraid. I may fail, but I'm failing at the right thing."

I have to admit that as a pastor, I have long feared failure. Every Sunday has the possibility of failure. The task of bringing a message of faith in God through Christ grows more daunting in a world that seems to regard faith matters with greater and increasing disinterest. But yet I continue. Why? What Melissa said really hit a chord (I admit that I shed a few tears for one of the rare times in my life). I may fail, but I realize I will be failing at the right thing. The grace of God in Christ is an amazing thing - not what you mostly see in the media - and is even more satisfying than any food I've ever blogged about, and still worth talking about.