Deceased October 26, 2022
Julie Powell died on October 26 at her home in upstate New York. We met freshman year, when she lived right above me in James. I can’t remember our first interaction exactly, but I do remember immediately noting her intelligence, sardonic wit and creativity. We hit it off right away.
Julie was a double major in fiction writing and theater, and we overlapped in both areas: We would occasionally read each other’s writing, and I reviewed a show she was in for the Amherst Student. (I didn’t like the play very much, but thought Julie gave, by far, the best performance, and I said so. I think she found a perverse pleasure in that.)
After college, by chance, we both moved to Queens—her, to Long Island City, and me, to nearby Astoria. We shared lunches, where she would tell me about her unhappy day job working for the city and, more intriguingly, a blog she started in 2002, called the Julie/Julia Project: she was cooking every dish from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I was also discovering cooking as a passion, though not with the self-punishing approach Julie had taken. (My cooking punishments weren’t intentionally self-inflicted.)
After Amanda Hesser wrote about Julie’s blog in The New York Times (where I had started working a few years before), it took off. Food blogs are now so ubiquitous, it’s difficult to imagine what a profound effect hers had. It introduced Child to a new generation and established a new form—though, importantly, Julie did not include recipes with her posts. The blog was more about her journey, which she chronicled in her typically caustic, frustrated voice. But it also conveyed a love of food and how it binds us together. She brought food writing down to earth.
The blog soon became a bestselling book, which in turn became a movie, Julie & Julia. Amy Adams played Julie, though without the acerbic tone that, in my opinion, made the blog and the book so appealing.
Her next book, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession, in 2009, was a bold attempt to combine two narrative strands: her infidelity, which she chronicled in sometimes painful detail, and her time interning at a Hudson Valley butcher shop.
In 2018, Julie and her husband, Eric, moved from Queens to Olivebridge, in the Catskills of New York. She struggled with her writing but was dedicated to her animals—she and Eric provided a home to a series of beloved cats and dogs.
I regret that we mostly fell out of touch in those last years. She died far too young, and I am one of many who will miss her.
Dan Saltzstein ’95