Texas-bred author of ‘Julie & Julia’ gained fame emulating Julia Child, but grew up loving barbecue
Julie Powell has been on a whirlwind tour promoting the film "Julie & Julia," based on part of her blog (and later book) about the year she spent cooking her way through Julia Child’s "Mastering French Cooking" recipe book. But she has no illusions about the movie being separate from the reality.
It’s not just the way her friends’ personalities were jiggered to fit writer-director Nora Ephron’s vision of Powell growing anxiety, or that the filmed version of her tiny, icky Queens kitchen doesn’t come close to the grim reality ("there are no maggots in the movie," she notes with a mix of disdain and relief).
It isn’t even how her mother sounds nothing like the twangy Texan in the film, voiced by Mary Kay Place. It’s realizing that there is really another Julie: herself, as opposed to the screen representation by Amy Adams.
"The Julie Powell in the movie is not me," she declares. It’s a "deeply surreal" seeing a version of your life onscreen, but once you get by that fact, it’s easy to enjoy the film for what it is. The project has been a long time coming, after all.
Powell, who grew up in Texas and who still has in Austin, Houston and Brazoria, moved to the Northeast for college, eventually settling in New York in the late 1990s. She imagined she would become an important writer, but as she neared 30, nothing seemed to be working out. That’s when she began blogging — one of the first to make her online diary something more than idle musings.
Powell toiled for a year, publishing her successes (and failures) in getting all the recipes from Child’s cookbook turned into real food. But the fact she became known as a foodie was almost as surprising as her acclaim as a blogger.
"I did not start cooking seriously until I left Texas," she says during a recent visit back to Dallas. "I started to recapture the food I was missing, from gumbo to chicken fried steak to barbecue." One of the best things about the press tour, she says, is she may finally be able to eat some decent tacos. (Tex-Mex just isn’t the same in NYC, she says.)
In the film, Julie learns that Child, then in her early 90s, did not appreciate Powell’s blog and dismissed her. "She hates me!" the movie Julie whimpers. That really happened, Powell says, but it did not sour her on her respect for Child and her influence.
"Part of the journey is not depending on what other people think of you," she says. "It doesn’t have to be a mutual admiration society. I loved her not because she loved me, but because of who she was." That doesn’t mean that at the time she wasn’t devastated, though.
The notoriety occasion by the blog, then book and now film means Powell has been feted across the U.S. But she’s looking forward to things cooling down.
"People want me to eat and want me to drink gimlets. I am happy to accommodate," she winks. But now that the film is out, she is "thrilled to get back in the kitchen and eat food I made and know where it came from."
Spoken like a true chef.