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Carolynn Carreño Headshot

What Makes Julie (and Julia) Great

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After I read the book Julie and Julia, a memoir upon which half of the #2 box office hit movie Julie and Julia was based, I never would have thought that I would be the one coming to her defense. Powell has gotten a lot of flack thanks to gawker.com. Some people say she doesn't have the chops of other food bloggers. And then there's the fact that she claimed, in public at an event last spring not to be a food blogger. I don't know about her cooking chops, and frankly I don't think that matters, but I would and do agree with her stance to divorce herself from other food bloggers referring to food bloggers as "clannish, slightly evil people sometimes."

I didn't read her blog, The Julie/Julia Project but I did as I said, read the book she wrote based on it, and though I didn't think she was James Joyce, and she seemed to have serious issues with cleanliness and gimlets, I have total respect for the project she took on. The first thing that made her blog, the Julie/Julia Project, truly great is that it was -- and here's a word you can't say about many blogs these days -- original. She started her blog in 2002, back when nobody knew quite what to do with weblogs. Julia Powell -- or according to the story her boyfriend -- thought of a great premise. She doesn't -- or didn't anyway -- even consider herself a food writer. She was using food and cooking as a way to write about her own life. It was a terrific conceit. She had a winning title. And she stuck with it. For a year.

Today, pretty much everyone has some kind of blog, even if it's only a way for grandma and grandpa on the other coast to see pictures of the baby. And food blogging has taken on a life of its own, what with awards, a code of ethics, and an inconceivable number of the things. But unlike today's food bloggers, Julie Powell was writing about something interesting -- life. Her life. Her humanity. Her goals and fears and fuck-ups. As one of the best food writers living today once said when I asked him about a story that had run in that day's Times food section, "I don't like reading about food." The best of them, the aforementioned food writer included, find a way to write about food that really isn't about food. The others, what I call the What-I-Ate-For-Dinner-Last-Night food bloggers, can keep up their competitive stance, writing about celebrity chef sitings and treat restaurant openings as if they are top secret affairs to gain the "scoop" on. And they can tell us what they ate for dinner last night. Me? I think I'll go see Julie and Julia again, and remember how food can change a life.

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