Julie & Julia and the Importance of Intent

I have been waiting impatiently for the release of Julie & Julia. I confess to having a bit of a crush on Amy Adams, and more than a bit of a crush on food. Not to mention that, as a blogger, this little (BIG) blogging success story was just what I needed to stave of depression in the wake of my husband’s deployment.

I loved Julie & Julia. That statement is possibly the only positive thing you’ll read on the internet about this movie. I will say further that I loved not just the half of it that everyone else loved, but the whole of it. But this is not going to be a movie review. Just go see it.

Are you back? Ok. Now that you’ve seen the movie…

I have to admit that I, like Julie Powell, was surprised and a bit heartbroken when I learned that Julia Child was highly critical of the Julie/Julia Project. I assumed this struggle for personal meaning was something that she would intrinsically “get.” I was further surprised to read quite a few reviews that criticized not the movie (although some of those as well), but rather Julie Powell both for starting the Julie/Julia Project and as a person. I have to say, I don’t get it.

Julia Child’s legitimacy came from achieving a level of culinary professionalism unknown to women at that time. She was successful in large part because she was an expert, and because she was able to translate her expertise to others.

Julie Powell is illegitimate. Or, at least as illegitimate as any person who decides to start a blog and document their personal journey, be it a journey towards financial stability, weight loss, or living a greener life. She was not an expert, but she cooked her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, which is more than most of us can say for the projects in our lives.

Child learned to cook because she loved food. Powell started the Julie/Julia Project in a moment of desperation and personal crisis. But I bet she learned a lot about cooking while she was at it.

Which brings me to my point. Does intent matter?

Listening to NPR the other day, I heard a report about a business owner who installed solar panels on the roof of his building. He doesn’t believe in climate change, but he stands to make $18,000 per year selling energy back to the grid. He will produce enough electricity to power over 30 homes.

There is tons of money built into the climate change bill for residential efficiency improvements (new windows, insulation, etc.). Most people who take advantage of this policy and retrofit their homes will likely do it because it will save them money on utilities and increase their property values on the government’s dime. For many, the environment is an added bonus or a political talking point.

Eating organic is healthy. Eating organic is trendy. Eating organic decreases the excess nitrogen runoff from farms that is destroying the biodiversity of our rivers and coastlines. Wait a second… were you thinking about reducing nitrogen runoff when you headed for those organic strawberries? No? Because you just spent your money like you did.

I think both Julia Child and Julie Powell are very impressive women. And I am glad that, more and more, there are other reasons to make environmentally sustainable choices. Because sometimes, it’s not about why you’re there. Sometimes, it’s just about showing up.

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