As noted by the sharp media critics over at EatMeDaily, the real star of the culture storm that is Julie & Julia turns out to be a book. Check the numbers: Since the film’s opening, Julia Child’s seminal Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 has been Amazon’s overall number 1 (now 2) bestseller. Which leads one to wonder whether, in addition to rekindling America’s love affair with Julia, Julie & Julia will also mark a resurgence of interest in French cuisine. Is the movie likely to alter in a significant way the place of French cuisine in American culture? Does Julie & Julia shut the door on the era of the freedom fry?
The latter, a bit, perhaps. Maybe the film will make a tiny dent in our national Francophobia. But as for restoring French hegemony to matters of cooking and dining: very unlikely. While there have been anecdotal reports of cooking classes selling out (a trend the recession started) and bistros filling-up, the social forces behind the declining status of French cuisine — the globalization of taste, the democratization of fine dining and international travel — are just too broad and well-established. Today’s center of culinary gravity lies solidly in the Mediterranean, somewhere between Rome and Barcelona, perhaps inching in the direction of Athens, and for all their butter-drenched magnetism, neither Julia nor Julie nor Julie & Julia are likely to move it.
Jonathan Milder, Research Librarian