Cleaving by Julie Powell
Julie Powell is the woman who wrote the book Julie and Julia, which was a hit for many reasons. Julie Powell cooked all of Julia Child’s recipes in The Joy of Cooking in a year, while blogging about it, and as a result, she got a book deal and now she’s an author and butcheress.
We fast forward a couple of years past the events of Julie’s life in Julie and Julia. She’s gone on to be an author of course, but she’s also trying out being a butcher. She’s also cheated on her husband with an old flame, repeatedly. This journey is about Julie trying to find out who she is.
She loves learning the craft of being a butcher. She likes dissecting pieces of animals and arranging them artfully on platters. She loves learning about not-often consumed pieces of meat and their culinary value, all of this is quite interesting.
During all of this, she vacillates back and forth about her feelings for her husband, whom she describes as a part of her and this other man, D, who is exciting, sexy, and different. When D decides to break it off with Julie, she becomes depressed and stalky. She sends him texts and writes him letters. Her husband knows, of course, he also has a girlfriend. At this point in her life, Julie just doesn’t know what to do.
After she finishes her butchering apprenticeship, Julie decides to travel the world alone. She goes all over the world to experience even more meat and butchery. She becomes a little more sure of herself and her life, ultimately deciding to take a “we’ll see” approach to life.
What I liked
I love memoirs, so I love this book for the same reason. I really liked Julie’s journey in her previous book, which is partly what inspired me to create my website, although, I haven’t been doing a whole lot of cooking on this site, it’s more for books and writing. Julie has a very conversationalist writing style. Her book is an ongoing conversation, although a little one-sided, that’s easy to understand. Julie can tell a story. Julie is also this quirky looking woman who I would think many of us align ourselves with. What quirky woman doesn’t cheer another quirky woman on?
Butchering has become a little more interesting to me. I’ve thought of the idea of having my own micro-farm before and butchering would be part of it, but I don’t know that I could ever take the leap between caring for an animal and killing it for my food.
What I didn’t like
Julie’s husband sounds like he’s great for Julie. He sounds as if he’s her best friend. He sounds as if he is really a part of her. He may not be the perfect guy, but he sounds like the perfect guy for Julie.
With this said, I don’t understand, for the life of me, why Julie would cheat on him. Look, having an affair is not glamorous. It’s not something to admire in somebody. It’s more admirable for a person to be committed, one-hundred percent, well maybe ninety-five percent on bad days, to their significant other, no matter what status that relationship may have.
I used to be married. My ex-husband was nothing like Julie’s husband, in fact, he was nothing like me. He did crap like put empty cat litter boxes on my bed and burn one of my baskets, just for the heck of it, because he thought it was too round. Despite, many such situations and ongoing mental abuse, I never cheated on my ex-husband, even though it probably would have served him right for being such a jerk. Even though my marriage was basically null and void because of how I was being treated, I never even considered cheating; I still respected that we were married.
If I had had a man who was to me, like Julie’s husband is/was to her, I would have counted my lucky stars and made cakes of celebration. Cheating on a person who was so good for me would have been a horrid abomination in my mind. If someone really was this other part of yourself, how could you ever look at anyone else and be like, “You know what? This guy could be better than what I already have”? I get the grass is greener thing, maybe other guy doesn’t fart around you all the time–newsflash, pretty much all guys will fart around you and they don’t even have to be in a relationship with you.
Why? You want excitement? Go to a sex shop.
My first marriage did not involve having someone who was another half of me. We were just two people, who somewhat got along, but otherwise, had nothing in common. If my marriage had been what Julie has with her husband, I wouldn’t be divorced.
I like this book as a memoir, but I’m very turned off by the fact that Julie took something that was so good for her and tossed it end over end.
Also, Julie gets really clingy, crazy clingy, desperate, and pathetic as far as D is concerned. If someone doesn’t want to be with you, they don’t want to be with you and it’s just best to move on. There are other people, in this case, a husband even, you could be with. Don’t be all pathetic and send them endless text messages, emails, and God knows what else.
It’s no Julie and Julia.
What do you think of Julie’s decisions?
Would you learn to be a butcher?