In 2004, Julie Powell was a 29-year-old secretary living with her husband, Eric, in a cheap apartment in Long Island City. Struggling to find meaning in her life, she began a blog called the Julie/Julia Project, documenting her attempt to cook all 524 recipes in the first volume of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year. That blog—famous for its wit, profanity and frequent references to Vodka Gimlets—wound up earning her national attention and, eventually, a book deal. Her account of her “year of cooking dangerously,” is being released in August as a movie directed by Nora Ephron and starring Meryl Streep (as Child) and Amy Adams (as Powell), and her new book, Cleaving, is due out this fall. She spoke with us from her new, somewhat nicer apartment in Long Island City about wine, cooking and the over-hyped status of bacon. For more of this interview, check out the July/August 2009 issue.
Imbibe: When you were writing Julie & Julia, you were about to turn 30 and still learning your way around wines. There’s a great scene where you have to ask a kind of obnoxious coworker for advice on how to choose a wine. Have you gotten more confident in your wine knowledge over the years?
JP: I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I have a better idea of what I’m looking for and what I like. I’m a customer at Vine Wine, which is two blocks from our house. It’s a great little wine shop, and they have a selection of mostly inexpensive but well-chosen wines. And they’ve really helped me out with figuring out what I like, and expanding what I like, and understanding what’s good. So yeah, I wouldn’t put myself up against a sommelier, but Eric and I have a better understanding—certainly better than we did back then.
Imbibe: Your next book, Cleaving, is about butchery. I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a whole obsession in the cocktail world with bacon-infused spirits.
JP: Oh, man, bacon’s everywhere! I hadn’t heard that, but it surprises me not even a little bit. I’m actually glad you told me this, because I’m pitching a TV show, and one of the working titles for it is “Bacon, from the hipster obsession with all things porcine.” Every time I go on Facebook, I swear someone’s talking about something they made with bacon. And I’m like, “You’re not cool just because you like bacon. Everybody likes bacon, OK?”
Imbibe: I notice in the book that you never mention beer. What kind of Texan are you?
JP: I know, I’m a terrible Texan. I think it goes with the way I hate watching football. Eric has to put up with my snotty little ways. We’ll go to the Astoria Beer Garden and I’ll say, “Can I have a white wine?” And he’s like, “Really? Really? That’s what you’re gonna do?”
Imbibe: Do you drink coffee or tea?
JP: I’ll drink coffee when it’s around. I take it black. Again, it goes back to my family. My mother cowed me into believing that anyone who took their coffee with milk or sugar was a wuss. I have to admit I have this really pathetic addiction to Diet Pepsi. I’m trying to cut back. That’s my daily caffeine intake.
Imbibe: There are people in the cocktail world who are doing something similar to what you did—bloggers who are making every single recipe in old cocktail books. Do you have any advice for them?
JP: I don’t know if it would be the same problem for someone doing cocktails, but when you’re doing food, you get so exhausted, both with what you’re eating all the time and with the constant effort of cooking—there will be days when you just don’t think you can do it anymore. And if powering through isn’t working, you have to stop for a second and maybe take a day off and remember why you’re doing this. Of course, if I had a drink blog, I don’t know if I’d have that much trouble with the inspiration to keep going. You know, my husband was training for the Manhattan marathon and he was going to start a blog called “A Manhattan for Every Mile.” He was going to drink a Manhattan for every mile he trained. Luckily, he didn’t go through with that.