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50 Women Game-Changers (in Food): #50 Julie Powell - "Home at Last" Chicken

the "Gourmet" prompt...
50. Julie Powell- The blog that spawned a movie. And turned on a few more million to the great Julia Child.

I can hardly believe that we are on our very last lady on "the list" today!  What began a year ago with the venerable Julia Child has circled right back around and ended with a woman who was inspired to learn to cook by cooking the recipes of that #1 lady on our list.
Julie Powell was born and raised in Texas.  She graduated from Amherst College in 1995 with a double major in theater and creative writing.  She and her husband-to-be Eric then embarked on a "seven-year foray into New York City's dizzying wealthy of temp jobs".   Boredom and desperation in her these jobs was basically what led Powell to start her year-long blogging endeavor, The Julie/Julia Project in 2002.  She decided she was going to learn to cook by using Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  She would divide up the recipes and make it through the whole book in a year.  She would then blog about the recipes.  The popularity of her blog led to a book deal and the release of Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen in 2005.  The paperback edition was retitled Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously.  Unfortunately (I think) neither Julia or her editor Judith Jones (#8 on our list) was very fond of Julie's "project".   Jones made the remark that Powell was "not a serious cook".  To that, Powell has agreed.  She says that what she was doing was creating a creative outlet for herself.  This outlet helped her to find her voice...her subject...her tone...which she feels gets a little lost in the movie since it centers so much on the food and cooking.  This project was about her finding her vocation as a writer.  And while someday she may be a serious cook, what she prefers to be known as is a serious writer.

Also, you have to remember that the film is just an adaptation of her book.  She says the main character "...just is not me.  You have to go into it thinking, this is a Nora Ephron movie -- not my book.  Then you can enjoy it."
Powell's sophomore effort, Cleaving was released in 2009.  Cleaving talks about her six-month stint at Fleischer's, a butcher shop in upstate New York.  It also talks about a "crisis point" (infidelity) in her marriage and how Butchery was her way of exploring and working through her problems and her pain.  It received many negative reviews and comments, calling Powell selfish and pitiful.  Of course, many felt that way after reading her story through her words instead of through the creative lense of Nora Ephron.

Whatever your opinion of Powell may be, she was one of the pioneers in the field of food blogging...whether she meant to be or not...and for that, I understand her place on "the list".  She is who she is.  In honor of our final woman game-changer, I decided to make a simple roast chicken with potatoes and veggies that is similar to the one made at the end of Cleaving called "Home at Last" Chicken.  Powell returns home to her husband after her butchering stint.  Wine is poured.  Movies are watched.  And one of the ultimate comfort foods (in my opinion) scents the air -- roast chicken.

Simple Roast Chicken

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cook Time: ~1½ hours
Keywords: roast entree chicken potatoes American

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
  • 1 whole chicken (~3-5 lbs.)
  • couple handfuls of baby red potatoes
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into ⅛'s
  • few cloves of garlic, peeled
  • few bay leaves
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • hot paprika
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
Preheat oven to 400° F.

Cut any larger baby potatoes in half. Place potatoes, onion wedges, and garlic cloves in a baking dish/roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add bay leaves. Toss everything around to coat.

Rub some more olive oil all over the chicken skin and put a bit inside. Season liberally inside and out with salt, pepper, and hot paprika. Stuff the lemon halves inside the chicken. Set chicken on top of the veggies in the pan, breast side down.

Slide into preheated oven and roast for ~15 minutes per pound. Halfway through roasting time, flip bird breast side up and move the veggies around a bit. Remove when cooked through and divide up the veggies and chicken pieces amongst serving plates.
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further info: website | blog | books | interview

In May '11, Gourmet posted a list of 50 Women Game-Changers (in Food) that runs the gamut from food writers to cookbook authors to television personalities to restauranteurs to chefs to food bloggers.  Some are a given.  Some are controversial.  Speaking the names of some brings fond childhood memories.  Speaking the names of others will make some readers cringe.  And of course, some of our favorites were not even included.  We food-lovers are a passionate bunch of people and whether we agree or disagree, every woman on this list has earned her place for a reason.  Being a woman who is passionate about food (cooking, eating, talking about, writing about, photographing), when I caught wind of Mary from One Perfect Bite's idea of cooking/blogging her way through each of these 50 per week...I knew I wanted to join her.  Many of these women paved the way for us in culinary school, in the kitchen, in cookbooks, in food writing, and on television and I think it is a fabulous way to pay tribute to their efforts.  Some of the women on the list have been tops with me for years.  Some I have heard of (perhaps even seen, read, or cooked from) before.  And there are even a handful that I am not familiar with at all.  I excited to educate myself on each of these women game-changers and hope you look forward to reading along.  We are going in order from 1 to 50.
Who is cooking along with these 50 Women Game-Changers?
I really, really hope that you enjoyed this past year and these mini-studies into these 50 fascinating women.  Please join me/us for one more week (next Friday) for a wrap-up post.

sources: Interview With Julie Powell of Julie & Julia: JULIE & JULIA'S JULIE POWELL SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT, Cleaving by Julie Powell, Wikipedia, Hachette Book Group
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