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Julie Powell Took Food Writing to a Franker, Darker Place

At the end of the year that Julie Powell spent cooking every recipe (more or less) from Julia Child's “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” she came to mayonnaise collée. It is a hand-whisked mayonnaise thickened with gelatin — a kind of stiff, salty garnish that was piped decoratively over aspics and the like in Mrs. Child's time. “1961 was a different country, no doubt it,” Ms. Powell wrote in 2003, casting a retrospective eye on a project she thought was over. But the end of the blog wasn't even close to the end of the brilliant conceit that Ms. Powell had conceived and executed in a moment of professional despair. She went on to secure a big book deal — one of the bloggers to do so — and distilled the posts into a book. Then the writer-director Nora Ephron, herself an avid cook, turned that book into “ Julie & Julia ,” an adorable, durable film that has brought Mrs. Child to life for a wide audience of American cooks since 2009. All three joined by that thread are now gone — outspoken figures who helped make sense of domestic life in the last half-century. When Ms. Powell's death, from cardiac arrest on Oct. 26, was reported this week , it unleashed a surprising avalanche of public affection, complicated opinions and nostalgia for the early 2000s. Numerous social media posts have also speculated about why Ms. Powell, who recently tweeted about health problems, including […]

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