Julie Powell, the food writer best known for her cooking memoir, Julie & Julia, which inspired a film starring Meryl Streep, has died at the age of 49. She passed away on October 26 at her home in Olivebridge, upstate New York, from a cardiac arrest.
Aspiring author Julie Powell was working at a dead-end job in 2002 and felt doomed for “a life of terminal mediocrity,” as she described it, when she decided to to make every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year, and to blog about it along the way. Child’s landmark 1961 cookbook contained 524 recipes and a host of obscure ingredients like veal kidneys.
The ‘Julie/Julia Project’, as she called her blog, detailed her many cooking triumphs and traumas. It was well-loved for honestly documenting a woman working through a life crisis. Ms. Powell began her project in when she was nearing her 30th birthday; she could not find a job and was not moving forward. Before she picked up her project, she had no formal experience with cooking and never even tried eggs.
Julie Powell was one of those rare voices who change the game – of memoir, of food writing, of women authors getting to messily overshare just as much as men writers do. I loved that she followed Julie/Julia with the divisive Cleaving. She was a force and always fun to read. https://t.co/4itKJGSOek
— Rachel Friedman (@RachelFriedman) November 1, 2022
Powell maintained a full-time job, cooked almost every night and wrote more than 225,000 words about it for the blog. She did her shopping on weekends and on her lunch hour, and she wrote before going to work.
”I’m miserable so they can be happy,” Ms. Powell said in a piece written about her by food writer Amanda Hesser. ”I’m like the Jesus of extreme cooking. I got fat and very unhappy for their sins,” she once said about her fans in her distinct, witty style.
Powell was known for being an early star of food blogging. The ‘Julie/Julia Project’ became a popular model for other blogs and helped build the audience for home cooking. Her self-depreciating, stream-of-consciousness writing style distanced her from the authority of traditional culinary writers. The internet democratized food writing, and Julie was the new school’s first distinctive voice.