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Joy and Julia: A Love Story

Whenever I cut up a chicken, I feel the presence of Julia Child. In one of her earliest French Chef shows, she places a naked chicken on the edge of the counter like Humpty Dumpty, before disassembling the unfortunate beast in ten pieces. [I can’t find a video of this particular demo--but Dan Ackroyd did a hilarious parody in 1978 on Saturday Night Live.]

I learned to cook with Julia in 1965, a sweet memory brought to mind this week when I rewatched Julie and Julia (2009). Meryl Streep is a “Julia” so astonishingly true I found myself transported to the Berkeley flat I shared with my sister back then, with Julia on our tiny TV screen.

I’d moved west from Cambridge the year before with no marketable skills. This was a time when the options for most women were limited: secretary, nurse, teacher, wife. But I was a terrible typist, hated blood, and lacked the patience for teaching. Although I was a pretty good guitar player, itinerant folk musicians aren’t the best marriage material.

On my 25th birthday, with no potential husband on the horizon, I had a complete meltdown because at "a quarter-century old" (which sounded much older and gloomier than 25) I believed I was doomed to be an old maid. (Remember, this was 1965 and women married much much younger than today.)

Joy Imboden Overstreet in 1980, author The Cherry Pie Paradox, creator of the original Thin Within workshops

Maybe if I became a good cook I'd be more attractive to a future mate.

So Julia and I cut up chickens, made omelets and soufflé together, boeuf bourguignon, soup à l’oignon and vichyssoise. Most importantly, Julia taught me to have fun in the kitchen and never let mistakes stop me.

Within the year I did find a husband, and what Julia taught me led to a new endeavor--writing the weekly food and health page for the Berkeley Gazette. (Lucky timing: the Berkeley food scene was beginning to take off. Chez Panisse, the Cheese Board Cooperative and the original Peet’s Coffee were an easy walk from my house.)

After my husband’s death to cancer in 1974, my passion for food became a torment, because I was eating altogether too much of it. Which is where my forthcoming book, The Cherry Pie Paradox, begins.

I share this history because some folks, who only know me as a color and/or feng shui consultant, have wondered if I conjured my book out of thin air. Nope. When you're older than dirt you can have many careers, and as a multi-passion person, I've done that. Where the book is now: I am proofing the layout (257 pages!), so publication is getting closer, though I still don’t have an exact date. Website is getting closer to done as well. So.Much.Work. And there's still the marketing. Shooting for July 202.

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