Bon Appetit! "Julie and Julia" and Me...

by Toni McGee Causey

I feel I ought to step up to a microphone somewhere and look bashfully out at the audience and say, "Hi, my name is Toni. And I love cooking competition shows."

My particular faves are Top Chef (though Top Chef Masters is kinda boring), Iron Chef and even Hell's Kitchen (though I squirm through half of that show, and sometimes wish someone would just give Ramsay a hug).

I love how, on Top Chef, the contestants are forced to create something in like two nanoseconds using cardboard, mustard and a piece of celery and feed 300. It amazes me how they are thrown these challenges where they could not possibly know what to do, and yet, thirty minutes later (for the Quick Fire challenges), they have something that generally looks not
only edible, but quite pretty and tasty. This would never happen at my home, if you were asking me to create something, and I am granting that you would give me a full pantry and an entire stocked refrigerator / freezer. When I open that pantry, I am immediately stumped. There are soup cans in there (I recognize those), and some cereal I'm familiar with, but all of that other stuff? A mystery. (My husband, on the other hand, knows what that stuff is and how to use it. I, very wisely and at a young age, realized that this was the thing he loved and it was to my advantage to stay out of the way.)

It's funny how people [particularly people in the south] look at a woman and expect her to be able to cook well. I used to amass dinners that didn't kill the children. I'm fairly certain that there was a point somewhere back in the Pleistocene era when I concocted meals that were tasty. Uh. Edible (Let's not throw that bar up there too high.) But when the writing took over my brain sometime back when the kids were in elementary school, whatever part of my brain which felt competitive about cooking just... went AWOL. It stopped caring about amount of ingredients or ratio of spices or little minor details like, oh, say, cooking time, aka setting the house on fire.

One time, I made jambalya from a mix. Now, Zatarain's has a really great mix, very authentic flavor (said by the woman whose house was a stop-over for firemen district-wide)... And whenever I was deep in writing mode and didn't want to order pizza (they had my order memorized), I would pull out the Zatarain's box and know that the kids were getting something that they liked, which wasn't horribly unhealthy.

I cooked the jambalya, dished up portions for the boys, and had turned to go back to work when my oldest spat it out and my youngest started making gagging noises. I tried it and sure, I had somehow managed to go slightly off recipe, but it really wasn't that bad. Boys, however, can heap on the guilt factor and make you think they will DIE if they are forced to eat something that is not pizza or cookies, and I was so deep into whatever it was I was writing, it wasn't worth the argument. I gave the dish to the dog and went about ordering something deliverable.

The dog, finicky eater, wouldn't touch it. (She was always difficult about that. Weird dog.) I gathered it up to throw it out in the garbage (I did not have a disposal), and then I remembered the raccoons. Since they'll eat anything--they were tearing through our trash on a regular basis--I figured it would just be wise if I left the bowl out there, let them have at it, and then wash the bowl later. No strewn trash, happy everyone.

We sat outside to watch the raccoons since they came up to the house about the same time every evening. The biggest Cat-Daddy of all raccoons sauntered up. I swear, if there was a barroom for raccoons, this guy would've been the bouncer. The kids were fascinated to watch him, so at least my cooking provided a little entertainment. That raccoon reached into the bowl, scooped up a big handful of jambalaya...

...and spit it out. Spit it out and ran away. Raccoons will eat garbage.

I think that may have been the last day I attempted anything that could be reasonably called "cooking" at my house.

But I am fascinated with cooking shows. I love how they know so much about their field, how much they have to believe in themselves, in their own vision, and how almost every single one of them battles fatigue and self-doubts to push through the competition.

Which is a very long way around to talking about the new movie, Julie & Julia which I saw on Sunday.

I think the device of using the blog written by Julie Powell to delve into the movie works, because honestly, I'm not sure that anyone would really go to a movie if they thought it was just a biography of Julia Child. The film, however, is so much more than that, more than the quasi-reverent look at Child from Powell's hungry gaze, and the film really does well in showing where women stand with each other, how the current culture perceives who we are and defines us frequently by outside standards--what we've achieved, where we rank, what new ground have we broken, and how to be true to ourselves. How to find ourselves in the midst of the hustle.

Both Julie and Julia faced searching for their dream, each in their own way, and it's amazing to realize that Julia Child faced down her own inner desire to "do something" back in the late fifties--nearly sixty years ago--when options for women were so slim and no one believed she had a smidge of a chance to do what she did.

Meryl Streep is amazing as Julia Child. For her performance alone, I'd rate this a "definite go-to" film.

So how about you? Do you watch cooking shows? Have a great relationship with your oven or have your served it divorce papers? If you like to cook, what is your favorite thing to cook? And if you are like Julia in the movie, who "loves to eat" -- tell me what your favorite thing in the world would be.

Toni McGee Causey is the author of the critically acclaimed “Bobbie Faye” novels—an action/caper series set in south Louisiana; the series was released this summer in back-to-back publications, beginning with: Charmed and Dangerous, Girls Just Wanna Have Guns and When A Man Loves A Weapon
which just came out on August 4th and has just received 4 stars from Romantic Times.

As an MFA in Screenwriting, Toni had several scripts optioned as well as having just this year produced an indie film, LA-308, which she and the rest of the producers will be submitting to festivals.

Toni has had several of her blogs syndicated nationally from her other group blog murderati. In addition to blogging right here - she also blogs for - murdershewrites.

Toni lives in
Baton Rouge with her husband and two sons


  1. I loved Julie & Julia and I agree with so many people who said they enjoyed the movie, but wanted more, more, more of Meryl as Julia.

    I don't watch cooking shows (but if I watched TV, I probably would), but I love to cook. I don't own Julia Child's cookbook, but I do own two versions of Rombauer's The Joy of Cooking and subscribe to several cooking magazines.

  2. Hi Toni! Welcome to the Divas!!!

    Thanks for the warning--now I know where NOT to eat if I ever come visit, lol!

    I have a confession to make. I don't watch any reality TV--at least I didn't until a friend, Laura Benedict, got me hooked on Project Runway....and then PR was gone and Top Chef was there in its place and, yes, I just had to watch!

    I love to cook--I don't follow recipes well, just improvise most of the time, so watching these young (and yes, they are sooooo young!) chefs improvise was tons of fun!

    Now, I'm definitely gonna have to go see Julie and Julia, sounds like my kind of movie!

  3. Hi Toni: Welcome to the Divas! Love your post! Well I adore food shows but also shows about the people who create food. Fave new food/reality show is Cake Boss on TLC about a family run bakery in Queens. Hilarious!

    Also love to cook. I think when some of us think about cooking we get nervous and think it has to be elaborate but simplicity is the key - at least for me. I cook very simple Mediterranean style dishes - and in the summer that involves a lot of salads. When kids are in the picture that gets tougher. Kids are a tough audience. And you have to hide the veggies - always! But your raccoon story - is priceless! ;D

    And I'm so looking forward to Julie and Julia!

  4. I love to cook. Since I was blessed/cursed (because it can be fattening because it encourages much cooking) with an excellent palate, I love to improvise. I especially love, love, love! cooking shows. Can't wait for Top Chef to return this month.

    However, I grew up in ranching country. Which meant I grew up on hunks of grilled or roast meat and potatoes. Right after teenage bride me married my sweetie, since we were about to move to AZ for him to attend grad school, he informed me that we'd have to eat casseroles to save money.

    I had NO idea what a casserole was. I asked my mother. She shrugged and said, "It's a bit like a meat loaf."

    So, I got a tuna/green bean/onion soup recipe from a friend at work. I rushed home from work and prepared it just as instructed. But it wouldn't turn into a brick-like meatloaf.

    I turned the oven to 500 degrees. Still it wouldn't solidify. I tried broiling it. Which made those canned onion rings on the top really brown, but didn't help.

    I dragged out the pressure cooker (anyone remember them?) we'd gotten as a wedding present and pressured it for a looong time. But it still refused to stick together.

    Finally I gave up and threw it away. When my sweetie arrived home all hot and smoky from his summer job fighting forest fires, I burst into tears as I told him my casserole saga. He laughed, gave me a big comforting hug and kiss and assured me I'd never have to make tuna casserole again. And I haven't.

  5. Great review of the movie. I haven't seen Julie and Julia, but plan to go and see it this weekend. I can't wait now that I've read this review.

    As for cooking shows I don't really make a point of watching them. If I have the time I'll watch Anna and Kristina's Grocery Bag. They test cook books and kitchen gadgets.

  6. Hi :)
    Thanks for a great blog post.
    I love to cook BBQ.
    Love & best wishes,

  7. Toni, I just about died laughing at your story of the jambalaya so bad not even the raccoons would touch it!

    I used to watch a lot cooking shows in the mid- to late 90s, but none of the newer shows on the Food Network have really grabbed me.

  8. Welcome, Toni, you wonderful writer you!

    LOL ABOUT THE RACOON!! I knew you'd make me laugh, as always. I just spit out my tea.

    Okay so I don't cook (other than mixing salds together and the occasional throw-everything-at-pasta deal) and I don't watch cooking shows but I AM excited to see Julie and Julia!

    Great post! Now I have to clean up the tea I just spit.

  9. Good think I know you, girl! I hid my coffee cup as soon as I saw the word "raccoon". I would have splorted all over my monitor, otherwise! Uhm...Would you hate me if I said my daddy was a cordon bleu chef? Never as a career, simply as a hobby, but he went through all the classes and the certifications. I'm a little more down-home in my cooking, though.

    I have so little time for TV anymore, I'm really picky so no cooking shows. I'd rather be in the kitchen making rolls, bread, or dinner.

    Favorite gourmet meal? Lots of fishiness - lobster bisque topped with caviar, followed by shrimp/crab/lobster in any form, and for dessert? Key Lime Pie or southern bread pudding. And since I cooked it, NO calories!

  10. Joss, I did, too! (Want more of Meryl as Julia.) And Stanley Tucci -- wow. He really rocked the husband role. I totally bought into them as husband/wife, which is kinda funny because they were such opposites on the spectrum in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA.

    CJ, well, see, if you ever came down here, Carl would cook for you, and he is amazing. Not formally trained, but everything he does is fantastic. I cannot diet around that man. ;)

    Joanna, thank you! (And thanks for fixing the unfinished pics! We never did find out why the electricity went off last night. Our entire neighborhood went dark, but there was no storm!) LOL on hiding those vegetables. ;)

    Oh, JoAnn -- that tuna casserole story is hysterical! And the flat out determination you had! I am impressed. A little scared and in awe, too. ;)

    Leann -- oh, that sounds like an interesting show... I haven't seen that one. Now I'm going to go find it and set it to record on TiVO, thank you!

    RK, you are welcome and BBQ is one of my favorites. ;)

    Jennifer, thank you! And LOL on the raccoon... I used to not tell that story, but my oldest son manages to bring it up EVERY SINGLE YEAR if I even look like I might get close to the stove. You'll love the movie.

    Leanna... oops! LOL--sorry about the tea. And yep, you're gonna really enjoy the movie, especially Meryl Streep. I completely *forgot* it was Streep less than 5 minutes into the film. It really just seemed like Julia Child up there on the screen.

    Silver... um, I think I am coming to your house for a visit. Wow, that sounds like some great cooking! (I watch these shows while on the treadmill... it's the only way I can watch them, because if I'm just sitting there, I will end up eating and eating and eating.)


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