October 12, 2005
Julia, Si! Julie? No.

For 365 days, Julie Powell cooked from Julia Child's seminal cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. As she cooked, she blogged about it on a Salon blog. People surfed to the site every day to read about her struggles with Julia Child's recipes and eventually about her drone-like job as a temp, her sometimes rocky marriage, and her sometimes maggot-infested kitchen.

Now, she has a book. Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen has been published and given a hell of a marketing push. I was surprised enough to see the large display of books at Barnes & Noble, but when I saw a half-page ad in the New Yorker for the book, I was floored.

Blogging has clearly been very good to Ms. Powell. She received a reported six-figure advance on the book and has a movie option as well. You'd think she'd be pretty up on the food blogging world, wouldn't you?

I'm a terrible blogger and a terrible citizen of the blogosphere. I'm going to get in a lot of trouble, but the truth is, I actually find most food blogs really boring. I try to look at other people's blogs and they have pretty pictures and they're so proud -- but really, I just don't care. I don't know anything about that person, and I don't know why it's important to them. Food in itself becomes just a mass of prejudices and snobbery and everyone looks like a prat when they write about food.

Source: Salon Premium interview link

And so a "star" forgets "the little people". Ms. Powell, maybe you're unable to appreciate the appeal of food blogs, but there seem to be plenty of people who disagree with you. (And what's up with the word "prat", anyway? You're from Long Island City, not London.)

I have to take a moment to take the Salon interviewer to task as well. The interviewer referred to the food blog community as "insular". I just don't buy that, but I can see why a fan of Ms. Powell's might. The food blog community is supportive. That's why we have group events like Is My Blog Burning? where anyone with or without a blog can participate. That's why we and others post Posts of the Week to help people discover other excellent food blogs. That's why Kip's foodblog and foodpornwatch exist - support and discovery of all the wonderful food blog resources out there. There are no membership cards needed or contracts to sign. Start to post about food and you're in the club.

Go back and read her blog. I followed her off and on. Some of Powell's posts are rather ordinary and some are wonderful. She can be very funny. This post on finding evidence of Julia Child's sex life in her recipes is a good example.

But I find in her Salon interview and her original blog a lack of something essential in her character. I've never felt this was a woman I wanted to spend time with. She's often petty and depressive and, increasingly near the end of the blog, quite self-indulgent and concerned primarily with the mercenary aspects of the project.

She's the kind of friend you might refer to as "bitter Julie" and sometimes just not have the time for. That might make for a good blog or Evelyn Waugh character, but I don't think I want to expose myself to a book length relationship with her.

Personally, I'll await the books from other bloggers who I both like and admire like the long-rumored one from Clotilde at Chocolate & Zucchini, or the electronic books from Tasting Menu. UPDATE: And of course David Lebovitz's Great Book of Chocolate.

Elsewhere on the net, Tigers & Strawberries took apart Julie Powell's New York Times op-ed piece "Don't Get Fresh With Me".

UPDATE: Dr. Biggles in comments reminds me of the excellent Digital Dish!


Digital Dish

To order a copy to be shipped within the US for $19.95 plus $5 shipping and handling for 2-day shipping (sales tax added in CA) click here:




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Posted by Barrett in Maryland at October 12, 2005 9:08 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version
Comments

Yeah, noticed the coverage. I stopped by her blog a few times, really kinda uninteresting.
Don't forget Digital Dish, hey. I wish Owen had a multi-million dollar cache to draw from for publicity. The book deserves so much more press, the hard work shows. Maybe it's time for me to start the layout for my Meathenge Coffee Table Meat Book of Yore.

Biggles

Posted by Dr. Biggles on October 12, 2005 at 12:15 PM

Quite right! I've amended the post to include DD.

Posted by barrett on October 12, 2005 at 12:28 PM

Ha, I would argue she hasn't forgotten the little people at all. "I'm going to get in a lot of trouble for this." Really? From whom? A community that has outgrown her? I enjoyed her blog quite a bit, but she clearly still considers herself the big luminary in the food blogging world, and I'm not sure how true that is anymore.

Of course, when she started, there weren't many food blogs (though nor was hers the first), so I imagine the current format (inspired more by Clotilde than her) just isn't her cup of tea.

Posted by Derrick Schneider on October 12, 2005 at 12:29 PM

Why is the woman so Angry?, Didn't she make great friends here?, found helping hands and sage advice?.

Looks like it was always about the book and never about the community.

*sigh*

Posted by Nes on October 12, 2005 at 12:33 PM

When I first saw her blog, I thought "Great idea!" but the quality of her writing or maybe just her character didn't hold me to her. I think this interview is just part of the same instinct for good marketing - I'm sure she'll get a lot of press over her comments.

I also find the "insular" comment more than a little irritating. Yes, many of us read each others' blogs either to see what the others are doing or just out of genuine interest. But we are a culturally diverse group and for the most part very sophisticated. And frankly, if you want to see a real clique in operation, just check out the UK Observer: seems every month there is a promotion of a book by one of their columnists. No one calls them insular, mainly because they are paid to do what they do.

There is an interesting review of the book on the IHT site:

http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/10/11/news/bookwed.php

It's gratifying (if, like me, you are irritated with Julie) to note that he's pretty negative about the book...but all of his criticisms come down to the fact that it's "too much like a blog"!

Ah well, who needs them anyway?

Nes: I do think it was mostly about the book from very early on. I wouldn't say the woman had that many "friends" in the blogging community - who amongst us has seen her comment on a site or participate in any event?

Personally, I'm going to warn my family not to buy her book for me at Christmas as it's exactly the sort of thing they are likely to do. (Oh look, a book by a food blogger - I'll bet Meg will be interested!)

Posted by Meg in Paris on October 12, 2005 at 12:42 PM

Hey Barrett, while you are at it, why don't you link the Julie/Julia book to Amazon with a sponsor. That way if anyone is foolish enough to buy it at least we'll get a take!

; )

Posted by Meg in Paris on October 12, 2005 at 12:53 PM

Does this mean we're not going to see the "Rachel Ray/Barrett Project" anytime in the future?

Posted by David on October 12, 2005 at 1:18 PM

The Rachael Ray/Barrett project may just be the only project she's NOT involved in at the moment.

Hmmmm... I suppose if it were a project in conjunction with the World Wrestling Federation...

Posted by barrett on October 12, 2005 at 1:35 PM

That Rachel/Barrett book idea has a lot of potential, actually, because of the two wonderful contrasts that it offers:

1) The contrast of names. Both authors have alliterative first/last name pairs, with two syllables for the first and one for the last; as the intro to Gene and Gina's book makes clear, Two Manic Chefs by Rachel Ray and Barrett Buss would be an instant best-seller.

2) The contrast of content. There's an old adage in the business world about how no solution is perfect; your choices are always fast, cheap, or good, and you can only ever pick two. With "30-minute meals" and "$40 a day" in her oeuvre, Ray Ray has fast and cheap covered...

Posted by Sweth on October 12, 2005 at 1:42 PM

I just had a brief e-mail exchange with David "Wouldn't That Be Better With Chocolate On it?" Lebovitz above about the Rachel/Barrett project.

It could be a race. See if I could cook all her recipes before she comes out with YET ANOTHER BESTSELLING COOKBOOK filled with more recipes.

It would be a Sisyphian task, but I might be just the guy to try it!

Posted by barrett on October 12, 2005 at 1:50 PM

When I first discovered Julie's blog a little over three years ago it was when I was first getting into blogging and blogging about food in particular. Her writing was good and at times funny and I eagerly followed along just like everyone else, but two things started to happen that made me grow bored with the blog and disenchanted with Julie. 1). I got tired of the NY bashing. As a native New Yorker I'm used to it but it can get very, very old, very fast. 2). Many, many more people began blogging about food who were just as good at writing and quite frankly more interesting. The writing on those blogs were much more about the celebration of food and the joy of cooking rather than how much more self indulgent and outrageous one can become to land a book deal. I'm sorry Julie feels that way about food bloggers. Many of her earliest supporters were food bloggers although she never acknowledged it except in passing and snidely at that. I won't be buying her book.
Did you know she started another blog recently?

Posted by Deb on October 12, 2005 at 2:48 PM

Gak! Deb, I hadn't seen that! Here's the blog - http://juliepowell.blogspot.com/.

It seems to be a book tour blog.

Posted by barrett on October 12, 2005 at 2:52 PM

See, the problem is that this boils down to two facts that have obscured everything else:

1. blogger
2. SIX-FIGURE BOOK ADVANCE!!!!!

That's all the media really cares about, and it's all the blogging world cares about (indignant food bloogers notwithstanding).

By Christmas it will be "Julie WHO?"

Posted by Brian on October 12, 2005 at 4:06 PM

Re the new blog. To quote The Gurgling Cod (http://thegurglingcod.typepad.com/thegurglingcod/)

For those of you scoring at home, this is a blog about promoting a book about writing a blog about cooking from a cookbook.

Posted by Derrick Schneider on October 12, 2005 at 4:17 PM

Barrett, once again you made me laugh with an apt and well-deserved critique. That's why THIS snobby prat keeps checking in with your "mass of prejudices!"

Posted by caryn on October 12, 2005 at 5:46 PM

Thanks for remembering my commentary on Powell's critique of organic food consumers, Barrett.

I have to say that I am not surprised by her commentary. I seem to recall she made some statement in her organic food column that "She might get in trouble for this, but...." It seems to be a common refrain, and I would say that in truth, it is her prime motivation.

She wants to piss food bloggers off and start a controversy. Controversy equates with attention equates with publicity equates with money.

It is quite simple really. She is trying hard to be the "bad girl" of the culinary world. She wants to be the one who stands up and "tells it like it is."

Except, we already have Anthony Bourdain, so what do we need Powell for? He tells it like it is, and with so much more wit, intelligence and charisma that I see no reason to listen to someone whose sole culinary experience is cooking every recipe in a cookbook.

I'd rather listen to someone who actually -knows- what they are talking about, than someone who thinks she knows.

With that, I will also say that other food bloggers kvetching about her snide comments directed at us only makes us look jealous because she "made it" and we "didn't."

Except, I know I am not jealous of her. I am not doing this for the money. I do other writing for money.

I write about food because I love doing it and it makes me happy and it makes my readers happy.

Hey, if I get offered money to do it, fine.

But if not--eh--that is fine, too.

And I bet most food bloggers have a similar attitude to mine.

Posted by Barbara on October 12, 2005 at 9:45 PM

Hear, hear, Barbara - I completely agree with your every point and you put it much more eloquently than I could have done. Thanks!

Can I join your fan club? ;)

Posted by Meg in Paris on October 13, 2005 at 3:45 AM

If I had one, you could join it, Meg. ;-)

But, i don't have one.

Posted by Barbara on October 13, 2005 at 8:41 AM

I second that Barbara. Reading your critique of her op-ed piece and your comments here I couldn't agree more.

I blog because I enjoy it and if it gets attention that's good, if it doesn't that's perfectly good too.

For someone who readily admits she doesn't really read food blogs, but has the chutzpah to insinuate that we're all snobs really does need to put a foot in her mouth (or maybe a rolling pin)...

Ms. Powell, next time, please do some research before blaring your opinions to the world.

Posted by Rose on October 13, 2005 at 10:59 AM

Goodness me! I go reading BBQ cookbooks for a day, come back and this post explodes. Not only THAT !!! Deb shows up? YAY DEB !!! Knock down those cobwebs. Do you like goat?

Biggles

Posted by Dr. Biggles on October 13, 2005 at 11:27 AM

That is what happens when you read, Dr. Biggles.

Shame on you for being literate. ;-)

Posted by Barbara on October 13, 2005 at 11:40 AM

I have always been around Biggles, I am everywhere...mwaahhaaa.

I guess this touched more of a nerve in me than I expected. Barbara said it best both in her response to Julie's op-ed piece and here in the comments.

Posted by Deb on October 13, 2005 at 12:31 PM

Kate at the Accidental Hedonist has her take on the Salon interview and the insular controversey here

Posted by barrett on October 13, 2005 at 12:32 PM

Everyone I know asks me, "Oh, are you going to buy that Julie/Juila book? She's a food blogger, and she got a book deal." And I have to patiently explain that I don't really like her writing, even though it's objectively good. I find her whiny and self-aggrandizing at the same time. Picking up the book only confirmed what I read in the blog: I just don't really really like this person. What I find I love about the food blog world is the opposite of what she writes. I love meeting the people behind the words, the feeling of how people write about food, the way we reveal ourselves constantly. yes, there are some food blogs that are simply photographs and a brief recipe, but those aren't the ones I read. Some of the best writing out there is in food blogs. Food generates stories.

She may have a six-figure deal, but I doubt she'll have a third book. (The second one was part of the book deal, I'm sure.) Not unless she suddenly gains some humility.

Every one of the people who left comments here are better writers than she is. And I promise you--this isn't sour grapes.

Posted by shauna on October 14, 2005 at 1:31 AM

Truth is - she was new at the time. If any of you people were doing the same thing when she did and then were loaded with the publicity that Julie got, you would probably be writing some crappy, half rate book too, and thinking to yourself "Woo-hoo, I am getting paid for something that was just for fun". You would "forget the little people" too. The greed has just taken over her. I don't blame her for taking advantage of the situation.

I, too, got bored reading her blog, but when I recently started re-reading it, I still managed to laugh out loud at some of the things she had written. Again, I didn't get to the end, but I enjoyed a lot of it. Let her revel in her "success", because we know it won't last long. Why should she not get a book deal - none of us had our blogs then, so she is a maverick of sorts in terms of food blogging. It sounds like there are lots of bitter people here, all with the mind set "I could have done better. Where's my book deal?". I don't care if no-one reads my blog. I am doing it as a record of my cooking a particular style of food while living in a different culture. Get a life - it seems really petty at the moment!

Posted by Lucas on October 14, 2005 at 8:24 AM

I think Deb had a food blog back then. Mines is about 2.5 years old, mebe not.
I got a book deal and I didn't forget the little people. I come back every day to visit you, see? It's because I care.

Biggles (The Writer)

Posted by Dr. Biggles on October 14, 2005 at 10:35 AM

I am not bitter at all.

I just think that her opinions are ill-informed and not well-reasoned, and I see little that is appealing to her blogs or book.

If I was bitter, I would be making personal attacks along the lines of "She's ugly and her mamma dresses her funny." Well, okay, I would be more scathing, imaginative and relevant in my personal attacks, but the point is, I am not bitter.

I just am also not enthralled with her as a writer or media personality.

Posted by Barbara on October 14, 2005 at 11:23 AM

no no Hillbilly mispoke, book already been published.
Nothing in the works, at the moment.
Although a local food writer copied my BBQ crawl post I did earlier this year in this week's SF Weekly. My post totally kicked ass.

Posted by Dr. Biggles on October 14, 2005 at 11:44 AM

Like I said, we're supportive!

I hope you do get a solo book deal, Doc. I'd prefer you to the guy doing BBQU on PBS right now.

Posted by barrett on October 14, 2005 at 11:48 AM

Yeah, Stephen Raichlen gives me the jeebies. Although, in his defense, at least he uses wood and/or charcoal. You need to look up Campfire Cafe.

Biggles

Posted by Dr. Biggles on October 14, 2005 at 11:57 AM

Wow! I step away for a few moments and you all go nuts!

Barrett - thank you for the much needed plug. Just would like to point out that the food blogging community actually gets something from promoting/selling what I like to think of as 'our' book since there are 24 food bloggers in it. Unfortunately we don't have a six figure advance to make up by spending the same amount again on publicity. But do see November's Diablo Magazine when it comes out - it has a little tiny write up of Digital Dish.

I have stayed away from the Julie/Julia thing because it would smack of sour grapes were I to comment. I do remember at the time I heard of it thinking that if they had looked a little harder they would have found some better food blogs to pursue - I had Clotilde and Chocolate and Zucchini in mind I think. And that is despite the fact that I find Dr B more my cup of tea than either of them. But I tried very hard in putting Digital Dish together to avoid letting my own tastes and preferences overwhelm the range of content. I invited CLotilde to take part and she declined in one of th nicest and kindest refusals I ever encountered. Completely understandable and I truly hope she actually does get her book out.

But I agree with all the commenters - it is the semi-automatic inclination to be negative about almost anything that puts me off Julie and I too will not be wanting to read the book.

I finally got to watch some TV recently (we don't have TV at our house) and was appalled at the Food Network. With the possible exception of Alton Brown and repeats of the old Iron Chef it was total dross. Barrett - apart from the money aspect, run, run from the Rachel Ray project!

Posted by Owen on October 14, 2005 at 1:10 PM

My comment was not about bitter grapes at all. Nor do I think anyone else's was either. I started my food blog around the same time Julie did and for me it is a labor of love. I am not a writer and don't begin to pretend to be one and I am certainly not envious of Julie's book deal. As a matter of fact when she got the deal I remember thinking good for her. What I do take issue with and was offended by was her op-ed piece in the NY Times and her comments about food bloggers in the Salon interview. Julie Powell did not invent the genre and has no right to discredit it just because she finds most food blogs not to her liking. There are more polished ways to say you dislike something.

Posted by Deb on October 14, 2005 at 5:43 PM

Don't forget blogger Heidi of 101 Cookbooks fame, her book Cook 1.0 is terrific.

Posted by Amy on October 15, 2005 at 12:42 PM

I don't think I have anything to add about Julie at this point that hasn't already been mentioned. I'll simply say that I agree with everyone that the food blogging community is supportive and wonderful. I personally often find the "why" of people's blogs to be a subject of great interest, even when they don't specifically come out and say "this is why I have a blog." It's a bit unkind to label a whole group as having no value when it is simply not to your taste.

Posted by Nic on October 15, 2005 at 3:15 PM

Some of you seem to wonder how she remains seemingly bitter and disgruntled, even after finding big money success. After all she is no longer a temp, she can move to Manhattan and eat at all the places photographed and reviewed on the Amateur Gourmet. No longer a mere blogger, she's an author whose book is being compared to literary works such as Bridget Jones' Diary.

Give it time people. Tony Bourdain has softened since his memoir, put on a few pounds and settled into his "On the Road with Charles Kuralt" period. He'll by downright jolly by 2009.

What keeps Julie fueled with negativity? You would be too if you had her follow-up book project. It requires her to watch an episode of "Designing Women" each day for a year, print out scripts from fan web sites and develop her acting skills by reading along as the Delta Burke character.

Posted by Jimmy S on October 16, 2005 at 2:19 PM

Whoever Julie is ...what a"prat" she is.No surprise though.Success affects a few people that way. Good luck, god bless and good bye to her.
For me, food blogging and interacting with food bloggers had been a rediscovery of all the good and simple things of life.

Posted by deccanheffalump on October 18, 2005 at 1:23 PM

Thank you for bringing this blog and book and "author" to my attention. I've made sure to start a conversation on my blog as well... Alicat shared your article with me and the more people that knew about it the better IMHO : )

Posted by Mona on October 20, 2005 at 11:05 AM

I didn't read the blog, because I too was annoyed by her. Then I bought the book for research for work (I'm a book editor), and I LOVED it. She's clearly got some issues (who doesn't?), and I found myself bristling a little when she mentioned her "vintage suit" one time too many, but the girl can write. A six-figure advance would probably go to just about anyone's head, if you think about it. And maybe, just maybe, a few of you are a little . . . envious of her success? Perhaps if you focus a little more energy on your own success and less on Julie Powell's, you too will get a six-figure advance.

Posted by sara on February 15, 2006 at 3:00 PM

Sara, I was with you until you played the "envious" card. That is a cheap and intellectually dishonest argument pulled out whenever someone successful is criticized. Were we to accept it as a legitimate argument, any successful person would be completely insulated from criticism by any but the "elite". See our Rachel Ray Cheeseburger salad post for more examples of this worthless rhetorical gewgaw.

I'm glad you liked her book. I haven't read it and I won't. But I'm plenty successful doing what I do and have no wish or need to emulate Ms. Powell, particularly in the "bite the hand that fed you" department.

Posted by barrett on February 15, 2006 at 3:14 PM

Barrett, you have taken the time to read the blog and have formed your own opinion. I respect that. Other posters of comments, however, have not read the blog, or the book, and some didn't even seem to have heard of Julie Powell until they read about her here, and yet they too have decided that she's evil and must be stopped! It's with that that i take issue. Julie Powell wrote a blog. Most of the people who read this (ostensibly) write blogs and they have made Powell the enemy because she doesn't read others' food blogs? I'm not saying everyone who writes a food blog seeks the same sort of success that Julie Powell has gotten, but I do think the ill will directed towards her is a little disproportionate. I don't believe successful people should be insulated from criticism--I just think that criticism should be based on one's own opinion, and not an opinion formed solely from reading other peoples' opinions. (And I think the Rachael Ray comparison is like apples and oranges: Rachael Ray did not start with a blog; she came from the restaurant kitchen. I don't love her food --and my God, is she PERKY!-- but she has made cooking less intimidating for people who used to only order takeout, and for that, I appreciate her.)

Posted by sara newberry on February 15, 2006 at 9:27 PM
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