It seems like a million years ago that Julie Powell started her career-changing food blog, The Julie/Julia Project, in 2002, about a government drone who makes every recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking over a year.
Here’s the thing: I didn’t read it. I didn’t even know about it. Eleven years ago, I scoffed at the idea that writing not found in print could be worthwhile or change the course of published writing in America. I was a journalist, after all, with a career only in print.
Then Powell got a book deal. The book Julie & Julia, based on the blog, came out three years later. I never read that either. It was 2005, the same year the first edition of Will Write for Food came out, where I didn’t even mention blogging.
In 2009, the movie adaptation hit the big screen. I saw the movie and wrote a post about it because I had started a blog a few months earlier. In my post I pondered if “everyone” (my agent’s term) would become food bloggers as a result of watching the movie.
Fast forward to today, where the answer is: Duh. And that was only one reason people (mostly women) started food blogs.
Recently a friend offered Julie & Julia to me hesitantly, wondering if I had already read it. Embarrassed, I said I hadn’t. Then I devoured it cover-to-cover in one day. I wanted to know what I had missed, to learn about the writer who put a public face on food blogging. I wanted to see what led to a long run of sales over eight years, a movie deal and a big advance for her next memoir, Cleaving, which was universally panned. (I read that book and loved its darkness. I may have been her only fan.)
Does Julie & Julia hold up, now that it’s 8 years old? Yes, it’s about the birth of food blogging, and it’s fun to see how she approaches it and how she responds to having readers — a new concept. But it’s more about a bored but determined cook who sets a seemingly impossible task and triumphs. After work and on weekends, she makes gelatin from an animal hoof, creates Veal Prince Orloff and serves it at midnight, and barely keeps her marriage intact. The prose is funny, feisty, intelligent and sexy. The narrator is neurotic, but that didn’t put me off. If you’ve ever tackled a difficult dish or cooked from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, you’ll relate.
The only thing that didn’t make it is when she calls her blog readers “bleaders” (a cross between “blog” and “readers,” I assume). And seriously, Powell came across as obsessed and a little scary. She ignored her husband for most of a year. But since I had already read Cleaving, I knew — spoiler alert– the two of them had issues.
I tried to contact Powell on Facebook, to see what she thought about food blogging now that it’s 11 years since she launched her site and her career, but she didn’t respond. She seems to be keeping a low profile. She started another blog that ended in 2010. Her website looks like it hasn’t been updated since Cleaving came out in 2010. She is, however, active on Twitter, if this is she.
No matter what the author’s up to now, Julie & Julia is worth a read. Of course, you’ve probably already read it. How did it influence you? How do you think food blogging has changed since Powell started hers way back in 2002?
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