If you want more evidence of our narcissistic age, there’s no better example than the foodie film opening Friday, Julie & Julia . Nora Ephron’s screenplay tells the story of Julia Child’s fascinating life, culinary awakening, and rise to influentialism, paired with the tale of mousy NYC food blogger Julie Powell, who, at a personal and professional crossroads, found herself by cooking each recipe from Child’s seminal Mastering the Art of French Cooking and then writing a book about it, where her name comes before Child's! In some circles they’d call that necrophilia.
You don’t have to have seen the film to know one story is interesting and the other not. Now, it’s not new for Hollywood to bastardize a story to make it sell, but are there really that many people who would not pay $9 to see a well-told version of Child’s story with Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci alone? How many of you could not relate well-enough unless there was one of your contemporaries as its focal point?
I’m sure Child would be flattered to be immortalized, but would wonder why an extra 45 minutes of her story had to be excised to document a story so unworthy and uninteresting. It's telling that Powell was a blogger, because it offers a parallel to so much of the food writing on the Internet, mostly diary-type entries from people who aspire to write about what they eat, but have never had to submit to the gatekeeping of editors or prove their chops before they write about them.
The New York Observer belatedly handicapped the race to replace Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni (moving off the beat). It missed the winning candidate (culture editor Sam Sifton), but did quote city food bloggers as saying they’d have no interest in the demanding and ethics-bound role. Amateur Gourmet blogger Adam Roberts and Citysearch editor Josh Ozersky demurred because it wouldn't afford the opportunity to be on TV or pal around with chefs. Roberts had just been to El Bulli and couldn’t wait to post his pictures, in comic book format, he mentioned. Yippee!
The difference between Julia and Julie, between Bruni and Roberts, is the difference between people in it to serve an audience or professional calling and those in it to serve themselves and monetize a hobby. It's the difference between the real thing and pretenders. Julie & Julia is the latest evidence that too many of us apparently can’t distinguish between the two.