EXCERPT: 'Cleaving' by Julie Powell

Photo: Book Cover: Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession

After writing "Julie & Julia," Julie Powell's second book, "Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession," narrates the ups and downs of life, love and marriage while trying to master the art of butchery.

Read an excerpt of the book below, and head to the "GMA" Library for more good reads.


February 13, 2008

This is really not what it looks like.

The work is most often a delicate thing, and bloodless. In the year and more I've been doing this, I've gone whole days with no more evidence of my labors by evening than a small bit of gore on my shoes or a sheen of translucent fat on my hands and face (It's excellent for the skin, I'm told.) So this is unusual, this syrupy drip, my arms drenched up to the elbows, my apron smeared thickly with crimson going quickly to brown.

VIDEO: My Life After Julie and Julia

I reach down into the plastic-lined cardboard box one more time, coming up with an organ weighing probably fifteen pounds, dense and slippery dead weight, a soaked blood sponge. I slap it onto the cutting table with a sound like a fish flopping down on the deck of a boat; the risk of dropping it on the floor is not inconsiderable. The box is a deep one, and one of the times I reached to the bottom of it my face brushed up against the bloody lining. Now I can feel a streak of the stuff drying stickily across my cheekbone. I don't bother to wipe it off. On what clean surface would I wipe it, after all? Besides, it makes me feel rather rakish.

I take my scimitar from the metal scabbard hanging from a chain around my waist. For most work I use my boning knife, an altogether more delicate thing, six inches long, slightly curved, with a dark rosewood hilt worn to satin smoothness by all the fat and lanolin that has been massaged into it. That little knife cracks open a haunch joint or breaks down muscle groups into their component parts like nothing else. But with this heavy, foot-long blade I can, while pressing firmly down on the flesh with my right palm, slice straight through the liver in one dragging stroke. Thin, even slices. With the boning knife I'd have to saw away to get through that bulk of organ meat, making for torn, jagged edges. And you wouldn't want that. You want the blade to slip easily through. Smooth. Final.

More than a year ago, when I first told my husband Eric that I wanted to do this, he didn't understand. "Butchery?" he asked, an expression of mystification, perhaps even discomfort, screwing up his face.

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