In 2002, an Amherst College grad with a double major in theater and creative writing started a project that would change her life. Julie Powell was living in New York City with her husband Eric, working at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Feeling unfulfilled at work, her husband encouraged her to start blogging, the newest form of self expression for writers. Julie certainly had writing skills but what should her blog be about?
Already a foodie, Julie Powell decided that she would cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and she would do it exactly one year. Julie Powell became a daily blogger documenting her experience making each recipe by the French chef. Her blog was a hit and Julie Powell signed a book deal with Little, Brown, and Company.
In 2005, Powell's book was in book stores under the long but catchy title, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. The paperback version had a name change to Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. Pretty exciting stuff for a girl from Austin Texas.
So What Did Julia Child Think About This?
Julia Child was never directly quoted on Julie Powell's cooking and writing endeavor, but Julia's famous editor was. Judith Jones said Julia didn't consider Julie to be a serious cook. Judith Jones said in an interview:
"Julia didn't want to endorse it. What came through on the blog was somebody who was doing it almost for the sake of a stunt. She would never really describe the end results, how delicious it was, and what she learned. Julia didn't like what she called 'the flimsies.'"
But in an odd twist of fate, Julie Powell was awarded an honorary diploma from Le Cordon Bleu in 2009, which is the same cooking school Julia Child graduated from in 1951. So much for not being a 'serious cook'.
In 2009, Powell's second book, Cleaving: a Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession, was published. The subject matter was radically different this time, writing about the effect of personal marital affairs while learning how to butcher at Fleisher's Butcher Shop in Kingston, NY. It was not a best seller to say the least.
In 2009, Nora Ephron directed the movie Julie & Julia which told the story of Julie Powell's blog interspersed with biographical scenes of Julia Child's life. Starring Amy Adams as Julie Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child, it was an inspiring and sweet movie.
Where is Julie Powell Today?
Powell makes occasional appearances on morning television shows and Food Network. She's still writing as well. She's had articles in Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Harper's Bazaar, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
Have an idea for your own version of the Julie/Julia Project? Powell also teaches creative writing workshops where you can get her personal insight and advice. Julie still lives in New York City with her husband Eric, their dog, and their cat.
The larger than life figure that started it all, Julia Child, died in 2004 from kidney failure only two days before her 92nd birthday. Her beloved husband Paul had died in 1994. Julia donated her home to her alma mater of Smith College and her entire kitchen now belongs to the Smithsonian national Museum of American History.