“Julie & Julia” author, Julie Powell, passed away from a cardiac arrest at age 49. She started a blog on Salon called the Julie/Julia Project in 2002. Her goal was to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in one year.
The blog became a book, “Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen,” in 2005. The book became a movie, “Julie & Julia,” starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, in 2009. If you read the book or seen the movie, you would think her life was all sunshine and roses.
Her death revealed a darker side of her life and for food writing.
When Julie Powel started her blog in 2002, writing about food on the Internet was still a new thing. The modern Internet that gave us web browsers in 1995 was only seven years old. The foodie community that we know today was nonexistent. She became the first food blogger to become popular and the first blogger to get a book deal.
Julie didn’t set out to be the first at anything.
Every day she wrote a blog post about her 9/11 job, her husband, the cat, and their tiny apartment, and the day’s recipes. She gained an audience that grew up watching Julia Child on public television since the 1970s. The blog led to a book deal which, in turn, led to a movie deal.
Nora Ephron wrote and directed “Julie & Julia” with Meryl Steep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell. The movie alternated between the two different characters.
Julia Child with her husband at the U.S. embassy in Paris in the 1950s. She wanted to learn something to occupy her time. She tried hat making but making hats was boring. She tried a cooking class for housewives but boiling eggs was boring. She tried a professional cooking class and that became her career. She spent eight years writing the cookbook before it got published in 1961.
Julie Powell with her husband at their Queens apartment in New York City after 9/11. She had a dead-end cubicle job at the government agency cleaning up the 9/11 site. She had friends who were more successful than she was. She wanted to be a writer but had nothing to show. She found success in blogging all 524 recipes from Julia Child’s cookbook in a year.
My favorite scene was when Julie had to cook live lobsters. There are two ways of doing that: boiling alive or putting a knife between their eyeballs. Her husband teased her with the words, “Lobster Killer.” The song, “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads, playing in the background. When the lobsters pop off the lid of the pot, she runs out of the kitchen and her husband comes to the rescue.
“Julie & Julia” is my favorite Amy Adams movie.
Julie Powell’s second and last book was “Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession” in 2009. I haven’t read this book. From what I’ve read elsewhere about this book, she burned through the goodwill of her fans.
She cheated on her husband, he cheated on her, and they made a fine mess out of their marriage. She left New York City for upstate New York to master the fine art of butchery. She then seeks out the butchering of meats in South America, Europe, and Africa.
Most reviews of this strange journey from French cooking to butchering were negative.
Julie Powell died from a cardiac arrest on October 26, 2022. At 49, she died very young. Social media was quick to speculate on the cause of death: COVID-19, the vaccines, black hairy tongue. Despite that negativity, “Julie & Julia,” as a book and a movie, still remains a bright spot of her life.