Julie Powell, the creator of the popular early 2000s-era food blog the Julie/Julia Project that ran on Salon.com, died on October 26 from cardiac arrest, her family told the New York Times. She was 49 years old.
Powell rose to fame in 2002 when she launched the Julie/Julia Project, a chronicle of her attempt to cook all 524 recipes from Julia Child’s 1961 cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1 — a book she had inherited from her mother — in one year. Powell, who was nearing 30 when the blog launched, tackled everything from clafoutis to lobster thermidor, all from the confines of the tiny Queens, New York apartment that she shared with her husband, Eric.
The blog was emblematic of the early days of food blogging. Powell embodied a wry, exasperated tone when discussing both food and life, with no shortage of cursing and schadenfreude. While Powell would detail her challenges around cooking with ingredients like aspic, she would also expound on her personal life, quickly growing an audience that was as interested in Powell’s cooking successes and failures as it was in her feelings and relationships.
The blog was eventually turned into a book, initially titled Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, which published in 2005. Those who were unaware of the original Julie/Julia Project soon came to know it through the 2009 Nora Ephron film Julie & Julia, which starred Amy Adams as Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child, for which Streep earned an Oscar nomination. It would be Ephron’s final film before she died. In 2011, Northwestern University student Lawrence Dai committed to watching Julie & Julia every day for a year, continuing Powell’s legacy of obsessiveness nearly a decade after the original blog went live.
Powell wrote a second book in 2009, about butchery and her marriage, called Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession. When reflecting on the Julie/Julia Project to Salon.com in 2005, Powell described the pleasure of blogging in the nascent days of the form — and how her audience kept her going. “For me, what I became more interested in was how my life began to inform my cooking and what I came into the kitchen with from my day,” she said. “I don’t know if I would have ever come to that realization if I hadn’t been keeping a blog. If I’d just written in a journal, I’m not sure I would have finished, because the communal nature of the blog definitely kept me going.”