Why Not?

Julie & Julia vs. Alice & Wonderland by Jackson
November 29, 2009, 6:25 am
Filed under: Introspective, Jackson

A couple of months ago, I went and saw the fabulous movie Julie & Julia.

The movie depicts, in remarkable comparison, the lives of Julia Child as she writes her famous cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Julie Powell, a closet foodie who decides to cook her way through every recipe in Julia’s book in a year – and blog about the process. In the past year or two, I’ve started to take a great interest in cooking, and am becoming slowly capable of putting together something that tastes pretty good. The movie was good in narrative, the actors were excellent, and it was hilarious from start to finish. When I watched it on rental DVD again last night, I got up to go get a bagel out of the pantry, walked by my room, and saw my copy of The Annotated Alice sitting on my desk. I immediately saw the connection between the two.

Strangely enough, the connection was made not between the storyline of the movie and the storyline of the book, but by the storyline of the movie and my own process of discovering Alice.

In Julie & Julia, Julie Powell is sizing up her decision to commit to the project of cooking her way though Child’s enormous cookbook. As she is turning the idea over in her head, she realizes that she really doesn’t have much else to do, and needs to find herself a hobby. So when she latches onto the project, she dives deep into the psyche of Julia Child, becoming slightly obsessed with her mentor. As she cooks, she starts to mature and understand better her path in life – not necessarily as a cook, but certainly as a person. The adventure she has in the movie is a sort of a coming-of-age story, albeit later in her life.

I, too, had a coming of age when the Alice Project started. When I pulled the textbook / novel / perceived impending doom out of my locker for the first time, my initial thought was, predictably, “This. Teacher. Is. Nuts.” We had to write 12 blog entries in just 6 weeks? Plus 15 comments? And no fair “cheating” and putting them all on one blog (namely, my own)?


The worst part of it was that 70% of it was to be done on our own time. I work far better when I can sit down and have some structured time (not structured by me, as I’m not so great at sticking to said structure) set out so that I and others can concentrate on one task. Sure, we’d have some class time that was exactly that, but if I thought I was getting everything done in that time alone, I had another thing coming. My mind voiced another 20 complaints. “This is a kid’s book! And if it isn’t, it’ll be analyzed to death, both by these annotations, and by us! I hate picking stuff apart!”

Somehow, I realized that I sounded like an 8-year old refusing to eat his green beans, and got on with the task at hand. And what do you know – it wasn’t that bad. Sure, the first few days were awkward, but as the project gained steam, so did all the students working on it. At this point, I feel capable of doing whatever I need to do to get all of the required material off the ground.

I’ve had a coming of age through Alice, and have never been happier to grow up.

2 Comments so far
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“I’ve had a coming of age through Alice, and have never been happier to grow up.” That’s about the coolest thing you could say about a project in my opinion.

Ok, here are a couple of questions I’m curious about and simply by replying you can up your comment total :).

In the movie Julie starts out very excited about the project but then goes through a period of self doubt and loathing about having to cook all those meals and then finishes with a sense of accomplishment. You seem to have gone through a different cycle in this project. Do you think one path is better than the other and why?
After the year of recipes Julie still cooks many of them but not all of them. Which things which you learned in this project will you continue to ‘cook’ and why?

Comment by Jason Kern

Yeah, I think the cycle was a bit different from beginning to end. The project, like all long-term school endeavors, had a “novelty” phase, where a ton of work gets done, a “ehh, not due yet” phase where not that much got done, but was justified by a the abscence of an immediate deadline, and a “PANIC!!!!” phase where you churn out (actually not bad quality) stuff to meet deadline on time. I think that it’s better to have your not-as-productive phase in the middle, rather than the end. The reason behind this is that you get samples of your work from all stages of the project, plus you don’t forget what you’ve done for the last few weeks when it comes time to wrap it all up.

As for what I’ll keep doing… Hmm. I think the technology side of the project was very helpful in encouraging me to find new resources to use in future projects, research or otherwise. I may (if I feel that I really have something worth writing about) make my own personal blog here on WordPress, but that’s not something I’m sure I’d still have interest for after a short while. Google Docs will probably be kept forever – it’s the ultimate fix to the “aw, crud, I left my flash drive at home” problem. At the very least, the project has taught me to work with a group, without really working in immediate conjunction with my partners, and that’s something I’ll try to keep for as long as I can.

Comment by Jackson H.

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