Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 4 Sep 03 10:17
Joining us in the Inkwell is Julie Powell, the author (if that is the correct term) of "The Julie/Julia Project", a blog at Salon.com. She is a secretary who lives in Long Island City, Queens with her husband, three cats and a ball python. Julie has just finished cooking her way through Julia Child's classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and is now in need of a gym membership. Co-facilitating things are WELL members Michele Knaub and Dana Reeves. Michele is an enthusiastic home cook who last year abandoned plans to cook her way through _Mastering the Art_ (and to document it online) when she heard some Julie chick was already doing it. She pawed through James Peterson's _glorious French food_ instead, and is getting ready to attack Vietnamese cuisine this winter. She lives in Brooklyn and dreams of ditching her job in digital advertising to go to culinary school. She is the host of The WELL's <gay.> conference. Dana is a refugee from the telecom industry who occasionally works as a personal chef and caterer. He currently resides in San Francisco, but dreams of moving to a tiny village in the Swiss Alps to raise goats and make cheese. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment this year was feeding Spam to Clarence Thomas, although he considers this achievement to be political rather than culinary in nature. Welcome!
Julie Powell (julie-powell) Thu 4 Sep 03 10:21
Hey, guys. Wow, Michele, sorry I beat you to the punch there. Sounds like you're bringin' out the big boys with that Vietnamese stuff, though...
nico and the cockgobblers (mig) Thu 4 Sep 03 10:59
based on how exhausted you seemed toward the end, i'm not so sorry you beat me to it, actually! yeah, Vietnamese. i figure it has less potential to cause me to blow up like a balloon, plus i just find it so... comforting. comforting and spicy at the same time. i have so many questions for you, but i'm trying to hang on until the discussion actually gets moving. so glad you're here!
Julie Powell (julie-powell) Thu 4 Sep 03 11:36
I'm glad I'm here too. Sure does beat dealing with the fucking hell of my average workday. Too bad I can't curl up into the box here and post myself into the Well, never to be seen at the LMDC again....
If it were three inches shorter I'd be there in a shot (wiggly) Thu 4 Sep 03 11:41
Uh-oh. You just shattered my fantasy that the soul-sucking had stopped and you had been whisked away to a life of fame and fortune.
If it were three inches shorter I'd be there in a shot (wiggly) Thu 4 Sep 03 12:15
Speaking of which, did you suspect from the beginning that you'd get anywhere near the attention that the Project has drawn?
Julie Powell (julie-powell) Thu 4 Sep 03 12:46
Not yet gone from here, sadly.... But beginning to have some high-falutin' dreams in that direction. There was no way I could have guessed I'd get the kind of attention I have. That's not to say I didn't have fantasies -- that's what quixotic endeavors are for, I guess. But not even I would say to myself, "Hey! I know! If I cook the 524 recipes of Julia Child's classic "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in 365 days, and write about it, all while holding down a crappy fucking job, rivers of money are sure to follow!" I mean, come on -- I may be nuts, but I'm not crazy.
nico and the cockgobblers (mig) Thu 4 Sep 03 12:57
you posted a few entries on your blog about the trouble you started having with your employer when they were tipped to your... commentary on your workplace. is it ok to ask non-specific questions about this issue?
Julie Powell (julie-powell) Thu 4 Sep 03 13:08
Non-specific is okay. Hell, specific is okay, to some extent. What are they going to do, fire me?
mig (mig) Thu 4 Sep 03 13:37
well, i read a post of yours that they'd given you a talking-to. and then there was no more info after that, so i wondered if you'd decided to tone it down (hah, i think i already know your reaction to that!) someone responded to you in the Comments area that it was illegal for your employer to impinge upon your right to express yourself after working hours. did you investigate this at all, were you worried enough to take that step? did you consider removing the links to your employer from your blog? how, n general, have you been navigating this? (this is of particular interest to Well people, who, like all online denizens, sometimes forget that what they write online is not private.)
Julie Powell (julie-powell) Fri 5 Sep 03 04:46
It's funny, nothing really ever came of the talking-to (yet.) I think I'm sort of a special case, in that I happen to be a person who got some press for her blog, and I happen to work in an office that is VERY VERY concerned with the media. And so when the New York Times article came out, I think they felt they had to handle me with white gloves, a bit. I'm like a little bomb they haven't figure out how to defuse. Which is fun. The people at my job are not, by and large, blog-readers; basically, if doesn't appear in the Post or the Times, they don't care. They've never bothered me about anything I've written on the blog, only quotes I've given to the press. So the blog is still a safe place, relatively. I had to sign a confidentiality agreement at my job when I started, so when things got hoppin' I did try to discreetly ask a few of the folks at the job that I trust about that. Turns out it's total bullshit, there's nothing much they can do to enforce it. I decided as long as I didn't actually reveal privileged information (like I have any) I'm in the clear. That, and I try not to call people assholes unless I really mean it.
mig (mig) Fri 5 Sep 03 09:05
i've heard similar things about the confidentiality agreement. although i did have my breech of it waved in my face at an exit interview recently - luckily, no legal action ensued. here's a question for you for when you get back from D.C.: do you have professional culinary aspirations?
Julie Powell (julie-powell) Fri 5 Sep 03 09:36
Well, here's my pre-D.C. answer... No. I thought I did for awhile - probably The Project was a way for me to feel things out, actually. Certainly the hands-on, physical aspect of it appeals. But I'm a married woman who wants a dog and a kid, so the 18-hour days don't. Plus - as an obsessive personality, I don't need to place myself in the way of temptation, amphetamine-wise. Also, I'm very wary about making your hobby your job. I want to want to cook, what I want when I want. That's my pre-DC answer. Maybe after my pilgrimage to Julia's kitchen I'll change my mind, but I don't think so.
If it were three inches shorter I'd be there in a shot (wiggly) Fri 5 Sep 03 09:40
I particularly liked it when they observed that you have "a lot of anger." Well, no shit, Sherlock. Will the pilgrimage to Julia's Kitchen be documented anywhere in the media (outside of the blog, natch)?
If it were three inches shorter I'd be there in a shot (wiggly) Fri 5 Sep 03 09:41
If it were three inches shorter I'd be there in a shot (wiggly) Fri 5 Sep 03 09:46
And what kind of butter will you offer to Julia - fancy-dan French butter, or humble everyday butter?
mig (mig) Fri 5 Sep 03 10:01
i'm interested to hear more about why you dohn't think making your hobby your job is a good idea - so many happiness 'gurus' say the opposite, don't they? perhaps you don't want your hobby to lose its appeal? but i really hear you regarding the temptation/kitchen culture/amphetamine comment. i'm SO right there.
Julie Powell (julie-powell) Fri 5 Sep 03 11:28
The pilgrimage will just be me and Eric, I believe, and whatever fans show up. Which is as it should be, I think. All these mornings shows wanted me to, like, cook my last meal on their show or something, but this has been a personal thing -- hundreds of daily readers notwithstanding -- and I'd like to keep it that way. Hotel Bar is good enough for me, so it's good enough for Julia. Besides, Julia wouldn't want me to lest delicious yummery French butter go to waste. Re: the hobby/job thing -- I guess I make a distinction between hobbies, jobs, and "what I do". Cooking and knitting are hobbies -- I do these things to relax, to remove myself from the stresses of life. If I was getting paid to do these things, they would inevitably become stressful, and I would hate to infect these things with that. Whereas writing, for instance, is "what I do." It doesn't exactly relax me, I just love working at it. And if that was what I got paid for, I'd still stress out about it to about the same degree, but I'd be enjoying it at the same time, so that would be good. Filing, on the third hand, is neither a hobby nor "what I do." It's just a job. A job which sucks.
mig (mig) Fri 5 Sep 03 11:34
interesting, interesting. forgive my ignorance - i suppose i haven't read all eleventy billion entries in your blog, or i would already know this answer - but has writing been 'what you do' for a long time? BB, before blogging?
If it were three inches shorter I'd be there in a shot (wiggly) Fri 5 Sep 03 12:04
I suspect your instincts are dead-on, Julie. Awhile back, I quit a corporate soul-sucker and went to culinary school, only to discover that professional cooking is an entirely different animal than avid home cooking. There are advantages, of course - you get paid to feed your mistakes to strangers, but it's the rare restaurant that encourages you to mix a gimlet and play Civilization while the kidneys braise.
Julie Powell (julie-powell) Fri 5 Sep 03 13:47
I suspected that might be the case. I guess y'all read that piece about Mario Batali in the New Yorker a few months ago? Well, in that he talks about how restaurant cooking differs from personal cooking because consistency the most important thing. You wanna make a list of Julie's Good Qualities? Well I'll give you a hint -- consistency is nowhere in the running. As far as the writing goes -- yeah. I was pretty much your classic Frustrated Writer. 3/4s of novels clogging up the computer, etc.... So the Project really was a way to give myself - well, a project. Some structure, something with a built-in beginning, middle and end. Because I generally suck at ends.
Dana Reeves (wiggly) Fri 5 Sep 03 14:13
<scribbled by wiggly Fri 5 Sep 03 14:43>
If it were three inches shorter I'd be there in a shot (wiggly) Fri 5 Sep 03 14:56
That was the real beauty of the Project, from both a writing and cooking perspective. I was a late-to-the-party reader, but when I read the introduction, I kept thinking, "Goddammit, why didn't I think of this?" I can only imagine mig's frustration when she did think of it, only to discover she'd been scooped. The finite nature of your blog is also a plus - it's the only one I've read religiously (well, I guess the occasional forays into Real Live Preacher could be considered religious, but you know what I mean), and the suspense of the looming deadline and relentless pace were a big part of the appeal. Early on, you mentioned at least one other food-OCD event, the "Like Water For Chocolate"-themed meal for your now-sainted Eric. Have there been, or are you planning any other extreme cooking events - say, a Julie vs. Alice Waters WWF cage match, for instance?
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 5 Sep 03 16:46
Tickets for that wouldn't be cheap!
Julie Powell (julie-powell) Sat 6 Sep 03 04:13
Now see, I wish I'd thought of THAT. I've always been something of an extremist, in cooking as in all things. I didn't have any real interest in cooking until around the time I went to college. And there was none of this, "You know, I really ought to learn to make a good omelette, perhaps a few reliable salads." Not me, man. It was Paul Prudhomme's file gumbo or nothin'. So, yeah. I'm sure there's crazy food stuff on the horizon -- there always is. But I don't know that I'll be cooking my way through Volume 2 in six months or anything like that. Maybe I'll tackle the French Bread. Truth to tell, I'm still really pondering my next move here. It's sad to end the blog, but the fact that it was going to end was always sort of the point, wasn't it? Alright, I'm toddling off to D.C. now. Will check in upon my return.
Dan Levy (danlevy) Sat 6 Sep 03 06:26
Where do you like to shop for food? I live in the East Village and saw you (I think) one day on Sixth Avenue around Citarella and Jefferson Market, not long after the Times article. What are your favorite butchers, fish markets, vegetable places?
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