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Food writer and author Julie Powell, known for 'Julie & Julia,' died at age 49


Food writer Julie Powell died last week. She was best known as the creator of the Julie/Julia Project, an early 2000s blog on salon.com.


It followed Powell's mission to cook every dish in Julia Child's 1961 cookbook classic, "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, Volume 1." She set herself the goal of doing it all in one year while working a full-time job. On August 25, 2003, she finished her final recipe, kidneys in a red wine sauce with beef marrow. And the next day, she spoke with NPR.


JULIE POWELL: It's been an interesting experience. And yes, there has been some hysteria involved now and again, it wouldn't be nearly as entertaining if there wasn't. But it's been quite a ride.

SUMMERS: Powell took on the project as a way to regain control of her life as she approached her 30s and struggled with a dead-end office job. She told NPR it was partly an act of desperation, but also, she saw "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking" as one of the best textbooks around for an enthusiastic amateur cook.


POWELL: I enormously respect Julia Child. I find her to be a unique and incredible, larger-than-life woman who has made us as Americans able to eat as we eat today. And Alice Waters and Martha Stewart and everyone in-between has Julia to thank for their success. And so to me, this is a sort of homage to all that she's done.

KELLY: Powell went on to adapt her blog into a New York Times bestseller, "Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen." She had a new level of stardom when director Nora Ephron adapted "Julie & Julia" into a blockbuster film. It was partially based on Powell's book.


AMY ADAMS: (As Julie Powell) Yesterday was Tuesday, August 13, 2002, Day 1 - 364 days to go.

KELLY: But the film was also adapted from Julia Child's autobiography, "My Life In France," which follows Child's life in mid-century Paris.


MERYL STREEP: (As Julia Child) I'm Julia Child. Bon appetit.

SUMMERS: Amy Adams played Julie Powell in the movie, and that was Meryl Streep as Child, a performance that later earned Streep an Academy Award nomination. And in 2009, the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school, the same school Julia Child graduated from in 1951, awarded Powell an honorary degree.

KELLY: Julie Powell stuck with food for her second memoir, "Cleaving: A Story Of Marriage, Meat And Obsession." Her stories of extramarital affairs and an apprenticeship with a butcher did not exactly lend themselves to the Nora Ephron rom-com treatment, and the book was not as well-received as her first.

SUMMERS: Julie Powell died at her home in Olive Branch, N.Y., on October 26. She was 49 years old. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and CNN.com in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.
Sarah Handel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.