Julie Powell: Food Bloggers Are Clannish, Slightly Evil People

eating-at-home-nyplLast night the Young Lions of the New York Public Library hosted a panel, “Eating at Home,” featuring Amanda Hesser, Rocco DiSpirito, Marion Nestle, and Julie Powell, author of Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment, the basis of an upcoming film starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. The most revelatory part of the evening? Though she was perhaps the first food blogger to get a book out of her blog postings, and certainly the first to get a movie starring Amy Adams as herself, Julie Powell does not consider herself a food blogger and feels “deeply ambivalent” about the whole food blogging phenomenon. “Food bloggers are clannish, slightly evil people sometimes.” Et tu, Julie?

The Young Lions Committee often features excellent panels like this (I’ve also seen Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, and Bill Buford face off on stage there), so if you want to see excellent speakers first hand, please join and help them out: The New York Public Library just lost $57 million in funding.

More highlights from the talk, after the jump.

Opening Remarks

Amanda Hesser is launching a new food site called Food 52.

Julie Powell’s next book will be about love and butchering meat [?].

On the Food Network

Rocco DiSpirito: Who’s a fan of Rachel Ray? [silence]

Marion Nestle (author of James Beard Foundation award-winning Food Politics): The reason people watch the Food Network is because it doesn’t have any calories.

MN: The Food Network isn’t about cooking, it’s about entertainment.

On Cooking at Home

MN: The availability of great ingredients is one reason people are cooking more now.

AH: Julia Child’s book is the thing that changed everything.

AH corrects Julie Powell about how many recipes are in Mastering the Art of French Cooking: It’s 426, not 425. I had to count them all once. That’s an important thing to know.

AH: Why do you like to cook?

JP: It’s time, it’s focus, it’s meditation.

Rocco DiSpirito is actually charming and funny in person. Teases Julie Powell for being a hipster.

AH: People are exposed to such sophisticated foods that it sets the bar too high for cooking.

Locavores vs. the Rest of America

Julie Powell talks about butchering and the Brooklyn Kitchen cookware store in Williamsburg.

RS: Who here needs to know how to butcher? People need to know how to open a package of spinach and saute it.

AH: It seems like you’re saying it’s more about the convenience than eating locally.

RS: I’m not saying Hot Pockets is the solution. But if that’s what gets you to the table, that’s great. Don’t quote me on that.

JP on vegetarians: I get them more than I used to, but I still don’t want to have them over to dinner.

On Grocery Stores

MN: Because of what happened to the economy, all these people are coming into grocery stores, buying food, and not knowing what to do with it.

AH: I love my local Key Foods, actually.

MN: That’s good…. [laughter]

RD recounts a time when he was working in a four-star restaurant in New York in 1987, and the famous, unnamed chef, who is still a star now, used only frozen peas, not fresh.

RD: Frozen peas are a great example of frozen vegetables. They’re better than fresh for almost the entire year.

JD visibly pissed about the freezer in Whole Foods [Citarella?] that only carried edamame. “I just want some peas!”

Cooking Tips

RD encourages people to use Organic Valley soups as the basis for any sauce.

AH suggests that you cook pot roast in mushroom soup.

JP recommends the cookbook Casserole Crazy by fellow Brooklyn resident Emily Farris.

RD: You can start any sauce with cherry marmalade. [Cherry marmalade?]

RD: Trader Joe’s tomato sauce is excellent.

RD: I don’t work for them, but Fresh Direct has some great prepared meals.

AH: If you only learned to cook one thing, what should it be?

MN: An omelet. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

RD: It’s just messed-up scrambled eggs.

AH: If you had to give home cooks one tip, what would it be?

RD: Taste your food. You’d be surprised how many people don’t taste the food as they’re making it. Even chefs.

MN: We’re in New York. People are just grateful to be invited to dinner!

Group consensus: If you want to be a good cook who cooks for other people, start by cooking for yourself.

On Restaurants

AH: I think Valentine’s Day is the best time to go to a restaurant.

Remainder of group: What?!

AH: For the people watching!

True Confessions

JP confesses to falling asleep after drinking wine and waking up the next morning to eat the stew she’d made the night before, right out of the pot.

AH confesses to eating chicken stock.

On Food Blogging

AH: How do you think food blogging has affected everything?

MN: I have a blog. Foodpolitics.com

JP: I don’t consider myself a food blogger. I feel deeply ambivalent about the whole thing. Food bloggers can be clannish, slightly evil people sometimes, which is OK I guess. I can be clannish and slightly evil too. [To see Julie Powell’s blog, juliepowell.blogspot.com, click here.]

AH: So what’s the issue, that it’s not informational enough?

JP agrees.

RD says the word “infotainment.” [Even more frighteningly, an iPhone corrects the spelling.]

RD: Infotainment is what America is like.

RD: Food bloggers won’t be recognized on the streets, so they can say anything they like.

AH recommends the blog BettyLives.com

Questions from the Audience

Question from the audience: Do you have any recipes you’d recommend for entertaining?

RD: Prosecco with POM juice. People go crazy for it, because it’s pink.

AH: You take a baguette and slice it, then put a piece of dark chocolate on top of each slice and broil it so that the chocolate melts and the bread toasts. Then you drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a little sea salt on top. [Yum.]

Someone asks what molecular gastronomy is. MN gives a pitch-perfect explanation, then says: I think it’s a guy thing.

A question about diets.

MN: The health aura makes people forget about the calories.

AH: That’s an interesting term, “health aura.” Is that yours?

MN: No, it’s from Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell. It’s actually a proven phenomenon. [She is referring to her recent interview in The Atlantic on Kentucky “Grilled” Chicken.]

AH: I mean come on, do people really not know how many calories things are? [uncomfortable silence]

MN recounts a cookie from Le Pain Quotidien, a thin chocolate cookie that weighed in at 670 calories.

Question: What cookbook/cookbook authors would you recommend?

MN: The Joy of Cooking. That’s how I learned to cook.

JP: Nigella Lawson. Not all of her recipes work, but she has real enthusiasm. And she’s a great writer.

RD: Everyday Food. Don’t laugh, but Martha Stewart’s cookbooks are actually really good.

Posted in food | Tagged , , | 25 Comments
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  • http://leenaeats.com/blog leena!

    Great run-down of this forum. I was sad I don’t live in NY and couldn’t go see it, but I really dig your detailed outline of the evening. Curious what your thoughts are on the Julie Powell comment? I got the sense that she was anti-food blog when I read her book, which just seems strange to me, since a food blog gave her fame, and you know, a life.

  • http://foodwoolf.com foodwoolf

    Great round up for those of us unable to make it (I live in LA). The quote from J. Powell was what got me here to read the story and I’m still not sure what to make of her words…I don’t know what group of “clannish” food bloggers she’s hanging with, but I must disagree with her assessment of bloggers in general. Most of the bloggers I have met are actually warm, open minded people that are uncommonly friendly.

    Thank you for the great writing,
    Brooke

  • http://www.savory.tv Savory Tv

    Stumbled over here via Twitter. I disagree with JP’s thoughts on food blogging, yet wonder what formed this opinion for her. I agree with Foodwoolf’s comment above, and most of those I’ve encountered have been amazingly helpful and sweet. True, there are a few elitists, however they deserve their status in my opinion, they have been cranking out excellent content for a long time, even before blogging was well known.

  • http://5secondrule.typepad.com cheryl

    Seems to me the Julie Powell controversy is manufactured because the full quotation hasn’t been reproduced elsewhere. According to the transcript above, she said: “Food bloggers can be clannish, slightly evil people sometimes, which is OK I guess. I can be clannish and slightly evil too.” Why is that so bad? She’s lumping herself in with everyone else, so I don’t see what the problem is.

    • http://www.gastrochic.com bellastraniera

      Sorry – it’s hard to capture in transcript form, but it seemed like she was almost correcting herself with the addition of “I can be clannish and slightly evil too.” There was definitely a pause before that statement. She is really someone who straddles the two worlds of blogging and traditional media, so it was odd to hear her take the side of traditional media in this debate. But all in all she was an engagingly honest speaker, just a little rough around the edges – actually kind of refreshing given the amount of media training people like Rocco have.

  • http://sassandveracity.com kellypea

    I don’t know who Julie Powell is most likely because I’m slightly evil ; ) But I truly enjoyed your post. It was a nice respite from a long day sadly sandwiched between an evening in my kitchen bringing a poolish to room temp before making bread, and deciding what I’ll serve for dinner tonight. I’m supposed to be writing about the ricotta gnocci we had last night. I do sound diabolical, don’t I? Thanks again!

  • http://www.MyLastBite.com MyLastBite

    I sort of AGREE with Julie Powell, especially after attending a food bloggers conference over the weekend. The majority of the bloggers were WONDERFUL, interesting and fun to be around… some were NOT.

    Let’s just leave it at that!

  • http://allfreerecipes.net bellastraniera

    Sorry – it’s hard to capture in transcript form, but it seemed like she was almost correcting herself with the addition of “I can be clannish and slightly evil too.” There was definitely a pause before that statement. She is really someone who straddles the two worlds of blogging and traditional media, so it was odd to hear her take the side of traditional media in this debate. But all in all she was an engagingly honest speaker, just a little rough around the edges – actually kind of refreshing given the amount of media training people like Rocco have.
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  • http://www.typetive.com/candyblog cybele

    I think Cheryl has it right – most people are taking only part of the comment without the context of JP including herself in that behavior description.

    Seriously, I don’t care one way or the other. I think if one thing can be said about food bloggers, they get all up in arms about the shortest comments about them.

  • http://www.dailyblender.com Jennifer

    Clannish and evil? I personally like being a part of the food blog ‘clan’. I’m more offended by Rocco’s comment that ‘Food bloggers won’t be recognized on the streets, so they can say anything they like.’

    We can’t all be publicity-hungry pretend chefs, like you, RD.

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  • http://mightysweet.com/mesohungry Jason Lam

    Thanks for the recap. I was trying to remember what Rocco was saying where I had a few a-ha moments. I had gotten kinda drunk from the wine.

    I’m not one to get annoyed much, but Julie Powell did a number on me. Rocco was more charming than ever …maybe it was the wine.

    It’s funny. It sounds like we’re ganging up on Julie. Maybe it’s a self-fulling prophecy.

  • http://mightysweet.com/mesohungry Jason Lam

    “fulfilling” …I’m probably still drunk.

  • http://www.projectfoodie.com Heather

    I have to say I agree with Julie Powell when I maintained my own personal blog and tried reaching out to other bloggers, quite often I was snubbed. No responses to comments I had left, emails, etc. I often felt it was because I didn’t live in a hip food area (Seattle, Brooklyn, San Fran, Portland, etc.). I live in New Jersey and most have a love/hate relationship with the state…even fellow Jersey bloggers (There’s this whole North Jersey/South Jersey thing that goes on, those from the north think they are “better” than those of us in the South-its all very high school). Now I write for two different websites one based out of Portland, Oregon(www.cookingupastory.com) and one out of San Jose, California (www.projectfoodie.com) and let’s just say people are showing me a little more love…go figure.

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