Monday 14 May 2012


After the huge international success of Julie/Julia project/blog/book/movie/all round phenomenon, Julie Powell makes the somewhat surprising decision to become an unpaid apprentice butcher for 6 months. I guess her new found financial status allowed her certain freedoms, and she can chase her dreams. This still seems an odd dream to chase.

Julie Powell is definitely a card carrying carnivore. She revels in eating meat, and doesn't shy away from the more confronting aspects of her newly chosen career. She begins working at Fleisher's, a wonderful butchers in upstate New York 2 hours from her home. She learns many skills in her time there, and describes them in minute, rather gory detail at times. While I do eat meat, I am becoming more squeamish as I get older. I don't like recognising anatomy in meat, I have trouble dismembering a chicken now, and lamb neck chops look too much like CT slices for comfort. Julie relishes in the anatomy in front of her. Whilst I'm not quite the squeamish, near vegetarian who will only eat skinless, boneless chicken breasts of her disdain, I can understand how someone can get there. 

After her 6 months of hard work, and after her left wrist has caused quite a bit of trouble- an author's carpal tunnel doesn't always take to 6 months of constant physical work, she decides to take up a butcher's tour of sorts. Not quite the world tour I would undertake, but a very interesting travelogue all the same. Buenos Aires to eat steak. The Ukraine to eat sausages. A Masai village in Tanzania to drink cow blood. Apparently cow blood and goat blood taste different. Goat blood is sweet, I expect that to be a knowledge I will never fully grasp myself.  

Cleaving though is about much more than meat. It is about love, marriage and infidelity. Julie has been having a long running affair. I became irritated by her constant ramblings and thoughts about her lover, D. He didn't sound all that nice to be honest, and her obsession with him, to the detriment of her decent, loving husband Eric was sad, and pitiful at times. It is only at the start of disc 5 that she wonders out loud why she isn't thinking or talking of Eric. Still, it's an amazingly frank and honest account of her life.

Julie is also obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are many quotes and references. Too many, I think. Perhaps that is just an overly curmudgeonly view because I totally missed the whole Buffy thing. I have friends who who similarly enraptured, although they don't insist on continuously referencing Buffy 10 years later, mercifully. Her family have a wonderful Christmas tradition of doing a giant jigsaw puzzle wherever they gather, that sounds such a clever, slightly old-fashioned idea for an indoor activity in cold weather that brings people together. It makes me wish that our Christmas was in winter so I could adopt it with my family, but the Australian Christmas has too many summer distractions to make it feasible.

I won this intriguing audio CD from the wonderful Margot for participating in the Foodies Reading Challenge last year. I'm so pleased and grateful that she sent it all the way to Australia for me to enjoy. I would never have come across it otherwise. Cleaving is well written, and the audiobook well read by Julie herself. I slipped the first disc into the player in the car as I left home for an unexpected solo trip. I'd never used an audiobook on a trip before, it was a wonderful driving companion. I don't plan to completely give up my collection of tragic 70s CDs for driving, but an audiobook makes a great change once in a while. I feel somewhat at a loss now that these 9 CDs are finished. 


MedicatedMoo said...

I'm glad you mentioned the 'D' thing, because she apparently also wrote a book (or a series of articles for a newspaper?) about it and, unlike the Julia Childs and other foodie things, I just though, "You're a showoff but now you're publicly humiliating your husband. Please go away now."

Satia said...

I still make Buffy references. I guess I should be ashamed. I'm not. I actually drew on some wisdom from the show to write something in a sympathy card for my step-father. I've never lost anyone close to me and I truly never know what to say to someone when a loved one dies. So I drew on what I knew from my reading a television show, of all things.

My mother called to thank me. She said what I wrote was/is beautiful. It meant a lot to her and her husband.

But I probably would have missed the whole Buffy thing if it hadn't been for my trying to find a television show I hoped my children and I could enjoy together. It worked. We did. I just consider this part and parcel of the many ways I've scarred my children for life.

Louise said...

Kath, that is really how I feel about the D thing too. How awful that is for her husband and her marriage. It's all well and good for her to have an affair I guess. People do, but this, this was really awful, and unnecessary. I wonder how he felt about it all? He did have an affair of his own after hers, but he came across still as loving and forgiving.

Louise said...

Satia, you don't need to be ashamed of your Buffy references! After all you're not writing a book. I listened to all 9 CDs in less than a week, and it was really obvious. And a bit much of the nonBuffy inclined. I must admit to being the tiniest bit curious now though. You never know maybe I'll watch some one day...

bermudaonion said...

I listened to this book a while ago. I agree with you that Powell can write but boy, does she have issues!

Susan said...

Hmm. I liked the Julie/Julia movie but heard that her character was quite a bit less likeable in the book so I never did read it and now I'm thinking I'd have a hard time with reading this one too. (Not the meat eating. I'm OK with that!)

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Louise,

I am not a vegetarian by any stretch of imagination, I love my meat too much for that. However, I don't really need to be reminded about all the gory details, of how my meat arrives nicely packaged in the supermarket, or on my plate in a restaurant.

I much prefer your cover art to the UK version, which just has a gigantic pig filling the entire front cover, although if the author is as eccentric and whacky as she sounds, than perhaps our cover might be more appropriate!!

I love doing jigsaws in the Winter, there is nothing more relaxing, although once I get started I just don't know when to stop, even if I tell myself that I am only going to sit at it for 5 minutes!! Hubbie can't stand them, although I do sometimes find him sneaking a peek, but he soon gets bored when he can't find the right pieces!!