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Julie Powell, Food Writer Behind ‘Julie & Julia,’ Dies at 49

Powell's "Julie & Julia" began life as a blog before spawning the 2009 film starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

NEW YORK - AUGUST 04:  Author Julie Powell attends a screening of "Julie and Julia" at the Paley Center For Media on August 4, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Julie Powell

Getty Images

Julie Powell, the cookbook author and food writer whose blog posts about cooking Julia Child’s recipes spawned a 2009 film starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep, has died. She was 49.

According to The New York Times, Powell died on October 26 from cardiac arrest at her home in Olivebridge, New York.

Powell came to prominence in 2002 when she started the Julie/Julia Project, a blog hosted on Salon.com chronicling her attempts to make all 524 recipes in Child’s influential cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” over one year. In addition to focusing on her struggles to find the correct ingredients and master the recipes as an untrained chef, the blog also saw Powell explore her frustrations with her job as an administrative assistant and her attempts to find direction in her life.

Child, who died in 2004, reportedly knew about the blog and was unimpressed with the effort, seeing Powell’s emphasis on her difficulty with the recipes as contrary to her goal of making French cooking accessible for everyone. Still, Powell’s self-deprecating, honest voice struck a chord with readers — the blog grew and gained around 400,000 pageviews and devoted readers. After the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times published stories on the project, the blog was adapted into a book and published under the title “Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen” by Little, Brown & Company.

The book gained largely mixed reviews at the time but was a success, selling over a million copies. Four years later, it inspired 2009’s “Julie & Julia,” Nora Ephron’s final film before her death. The screenplay adapted the “Julie and Julia” book and Child’s autobiography “My Life in France,” flipping between the 1950s when Child was writing “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” and 2002 as Powell worked on the blog. Adams played Powell, while Streep played Child. The movie — likely the first major motion picture based on a blog — received positive reviews, particularly for Adams’ and Streep’s performances. It grossed $129.5 million at the global box office, off a $40 million budget.

In 2009, Powell published her second book, “Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession.” The book was more serious than her last, focusing on her apprenticeship at a butcher shop and diving deep into her marriage, describing the ups and downs of her relationship as well as extramarital affairs that both she and her husband participated in. The book was less successful than “Julie and Julia” and received several negative reviews. It would ultimately be Powell’s last book.

Powell is survived by her husband, Eric, her brother and her parents.

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