Copyright © 2005 by Julie Powell All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. Little, Brown and Company Hachette Book Group, USA 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Visit our Web site at HachetteBookGroupUSA.com First eBook Edition: September 2005 ISBN: 978-0-7595-1457-7 Contents Dedication AUTHOR’S NOTE DAY 1, RECIPE 1: The Road to Hell Is Paved with Leeks and Potatoes BEFORE THE BEGINNING: Joy of Cooking DAY 23, RECIPE 34: You Have to Break a Few Eggs . . . DAY 36, RECIPE 48: Hacking the Marrow Out of Life DAY 40, RECIPE 49: . . . To Make an Omelette DAY 42, RECIPE 53 | DAY 82, RECIPE 95: Disaster/Dinner Party, Dinner Party/Disaster: DAY 108, RECIPE 154: The Law of Diminishing Returns DAY 130, RECIPE 201: They Shoot Lobsters, Don’t They? DAY 198, RECIPE 268: The Proof Is in the Plumbing DAY 221, RECIPE 330: Sweet Smell of Failure DAY 237, RECIPE 357: Flaming Crepes! DAY 340, RECIPE 465: Time to Move to Weehawken DAY 352, RECIPE 499: “Only in America” DAY 365, RECIPE 524: Simplicity Itself . . . Well, Not Quite ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ABOUT THE AUTHOR For Julia, without whom I could not have done this, and for Eric, without whom I could not do at all AUTHOR’S NOTE For the sake of discretion, many identifying details, individuals, and events throughout this book have been altered. Only myself, my husband, and certain widely known public figures, including Julia and Paul Child, are identified by real names. Also, sometimes I just made stuff up. Case in point: the scenes from the lives of Paul Child and Julia McWilliams Child depicted throughout are purely works of imagination, inspired by events described in the journals and letters of Paul Child, the letters of Julia McWilliams, and the biography of Julia Child, Appetite for Life, by Noël Riley Fitch. I thank Ms. Riley Fitch for her fine work, and the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University for generously making Mrs. Child’s archives available to the public. — Julie Powell Thursday, October 6, 1949 Paris At seven o’clock on a dreary evening in the Left Bank, Julia began roasting pigeons for the second time in her life. She’d roasted them the first time that morning during her first- ever cooking lesson, in a cramped basement kitchen at the Cordon Bleu cooking school at 129, rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré. Now she was roasting some more in the rented flat she shared with her husband, Paul, in the kitchen at the top of a narrow stairway in what used to be the servant quarters before the old house got divided up into apartments. The stove and counters were too short for her, like everything else in the world. Even so, she liked her kitchen at the top of the stairs better than the one at school—liked the light and air up there, liked the dumbwaiter that would carry her birds down to the dining room, liked that she could cook while her husband sat beside her at the kitchen table, keeping her company. She supposed she would get used to the counters soon enough— when you go through life as a six-foot-two-inch-tall woman, you get used to getting used to things. Paul was there now, snapping pictures of his wife from time to time, and finishing up a letter to his brother, Charlie. “If you could see Julie stuffing pepper and lard up the asshole of a dead pigeon,” he wrote, “you’d realize how profoundly affected she’s been already.”* But he hadn’t seen anything yet. His wife, Julia Child, had decided to learn to cook. She was thirty-seven years old. DAY 1, RECIPE 1 The Road to Hell Is Paved with Leeks and Potatoes A s far as I know, the only evidence supporting the theory that Julia Child first made Potage Parmentier during a bad bout of ennui is her own recipe for it. She writes that Potage Parmentier—which is just a Frenchie way of saying potato soup—“smells good, tastes good, and is simplicity itself to make.” It is the first recipe in the first book she ever wrote. She concedes that you can add carrots or broccoli or green beans if you want, but that seems beside the point, if what you’re looking for is simplicity itself. Simplicity itself. It sounds like poetry, doesn’t it? It sounds like just what the doctor ordered. It wasn’t what my doctor ordered, though. My doctor—my gynecologist, to be specific—ordered a baby. “There are the hormonal issues in your case, with the PCOS, you know about that already. And you are pushing thirty, after all. Look at it this way—there will never be a better time.” This was not the first time I’d heard this. It had been happening for a couple of years now, ever since I’d sold some of my eggs for $7,500 in order to pay off credit card debt. Actually, that was the second time I’d “donated”— a funny way of putting it, since when you wake up from the anesthesia less a few dozen ova and get dressed, there’s a check for thousands of dollars with your name on it waiting at the receptionist’s desk. The first time was five years ago, when I was twenty-four, impecunious and fancy-free. I hadn’t planned on doing it twice, but three years later I got a call from a doctor with an unidentifiable European accent who asked me if I’d be interested in flying down to Florida for a second go- round, because “our clients were very satisfied with the results of your initial donation.” Egg donation is still a new-enough technology that our slowly evolving legal and etiquette systems have not yet quite caught up; nobody knows if egg donators are going to be getting sued for child support ten years down the line or what. So discussions on the subject tend to be knotted with imprecise pronouns and euphemisms. The upshot of this phone call, though, was that there was a little me running around Tampa or somewhere, and the little me’s parents were happy enough with him or her that they wanted a matched set. The honest part of me wanted to shout, “Wait, no—when they start hitting puberty you’ll regret this!” But $7,500 is a lot of money. Anyway, it was not until the second harvesting (they actually call it “harvesting”; fertility clinics, it turns out, use a lot of vaguely apocalyptic terms) that I found out I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, which sounds absolutely terrifying, but apparently just meant that I was going to get hairy and fat and I’d have to take all kinds of drugs to conceive. Which means, I guess, that I haven’t heard my last of crypto-religious obstetric jargon. So. Ever since I was diagnosed with this PCOS, two years ago, doctors have been obsessing over my childbearing prospects. I’ve even been given the Pushing Thirty speech by my avuncular, white-haired orthopedist (what kind of twenty-nine-year-old has a herniated disk, I ask you?). At least my gynecologist had some kind of business in my private parts. Maybe that’s why I heroically did not start bawling immediately when he said this, as he was wiping off his speculum. Once he left, however, I did fling one of my navy faille pumps at the place where his head had been just a moment before. The heel hit the door with a thud, leaving a black scuff mark, then dropped onto the counter, where it knocked over a glass jar of cotton swabs. I scooped up all the Q-tips from the counter and the floor and started to stuff them back into the jar before realizing I’d probably gotten them all contaminated, so then I shoved them into a pile next to an apothecary jar full of fresh needles and squeezed myself back into the vintage forties suit I’d been so proud of that morning when Nate from work told me it made my waist look small while subtly eyeing my cleavage, but which on the ride from lower Manhattan to the Upper East Side on an un-air-conditioned 6 train had gotten sweatstained and rumpled. Then I slunk out of the room, fifteen-buck co-pay already in hand, the better to make my escape before anyone discovered I’d trashed the place. As soon as I got belowground, I knew there was a problem. Even before I reached the turnstiles, I heard a low, subterranean rumble echoing off the tiled walls, and noticed more than the usual number of aimless-looking people milling about. A tangy whiff of disgruntlement wafted on the fetid air. Every once in a great while the “announcement system” would come on and “announce” something, but none of these spatterings of word salad resulted in the arrival of a train, not for a long, long time. Along with everyone else, I leaned out over the platform edge, hoping to see the pale yellow of a train’s headlight glinting off the track, but the tunnel was black. I smelled like a rained-upon, nervous sheep. My feet, in their navy heels with the bows on the toe, were killing me, as was my back, and the platform was so crammed with people that before long I began to worry someone was going to fall off the edge onto the tracks—possibly me, or maybe the person I was going to push during my imminent psychotic break. But then, magically, the crowd veered away. For a split second I thought the stink coming off my suit had reached a deadly new level, but the wary, amused looks on the faces of those edging away weren’t focused on me. I followed their gaze to a plug of a woman, her head of salt-and-pepper hair shorn into the sort of crew cut they give to the mentally disabled, who had plopped down on the concrete directly behind me. I could see the whorls of her cowlick like a fingerprint, feel the tingle of invaded personal space against my shins. The woman was muttering to herself fiercely. Commuters had vacated a swath of platform all around the loon as instinctually as a herd of wildebeests evading a lioness. I was the only one stuck in the dangerous blank circle, the lost calf, the old worn-out cripple who couldn’t keep up. The loon started smacking her forehead with the heel of her palm. “Fuck!” she yelled. “Fuck! FUCK!” I couldn’t decide whether it would be safer to edge back into the crowd or freeze where I was. My breathing grew shallow as I turned my eyes blankly out across the tracks to the uptown platform, that old subway chameleon trick. The loon placed both palms down on the concrete in front of her and— CRACK!—smacked her forehead hard on the ground. This was a little much even for the surrounding crowd of New Yorkers, who of course all knew that loons and subways go together like peanut butter and chocolate. The sickening noise of skull on concrete seemed to echo in the damp air—as if she was using her specially evolved resonant brainpan as an instrument to call the crazies out from every far-underground branch of the city. Everybody flinched, glancing around nervously. With a squeak I hopped back into the multitude. The loon had a smudgy black abrasion right in the middle of her forehead, like the scuff mark my shoe had left on my gynecologist’s door, but she just kept screeching. The train pulled in, and I connived to wiggle into the car the loon wasn’t going into.