This is the story of a New York City secretary in a dead-end job, who decides to cook every recipe in Julia child's massive cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not only did she cook every recipe, but blogged about it, too, and eventually got noticed by not just her online fans, but also by major newspapers, radio, and tv, leading of course to the now-celebrated film. The book is not as fast-paced as the movie, however, and slogging through the recipes with her is quite a trek. Yet, by the last half of the book, I felt somewhat like Julie. If she could cook 524 recipes, then I could certainly read about them. What was surprising was how many failures she had, which probably made her successes that much sweeter. It almost seemed like Julia Child herself was prodding her on. The dessert of the book is at the end, when author Powell ponders what she learned from Julia Child: "I thought I was using the book to cook French food, but I was learning to sniff out the secret doors of possibility. ..Julia taught me what it takes to find your way in the world." And so she learns Julia's most important lesson of all-the art of living with gusto.
Recommended by Betsy Schroeder