Photo: Little, Brown and Company
EW: Let's go back to 2002, when you were turning 30 and decided to do the Julie/Julia blog project. Were you much of a cook before you went down this path?
JP: You know, I call myself "enthusiastic" rather than "accomplished." I sort of taught myself how to cook ad-hoc throughout my 20s and was not very methodical about it. Instead of "I'm going to learn how to make a nice, simple sautéed chicken," it was "Seafood Gumbo—what is a roux? I don't know I will figure it out." So, I was used to disasters and the odd triumph, so I wouldn't call myself skilled and I knew that.
EW: But, you could cook.
JP: I could throw something together. I mean, we did cook. I've always cooked more than I gone out for dinner, which is strange for a New Yorker. New Yorkers rarely cook five times a week, but we did.
EW: So, it wasn't too crazy for you to cook your way through a cookbook, but cooking through the entire Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child in one year...that is a true project. Why did you choose that book?
JP: Well, it has always been that book. What had happened really was, I was 29 at the time and very unhappy in a dead-end job and had nothing I could call my own. I was not fulfilled. And Mastering the Art had been an object in my life since I was a child—not an object that I opened and cooked things out of, but an object.
I was obsessed with books as a kid, and it was such a beautiful book physically and it was so mysterious. You would open it up, there were French words, and it was old and creepy and elicit. And so it always held this fascination for me when I was a kid. Then, as I grew up and did start learning to cook, my mind naturally went back to it, and I started obsessively reading it as bedtime reading basically. I was reading it out loud to [my husband], Eric, while we were getting ready for bed.
So, that book was there and this simmering frustration was there and this idea that had I always wanted to write and was very frustrated as a writer—so it all came together at once. Here is my subject, here is my regimen, this is how I am going to plug writing in it—through this new bizarro thing I don't understand called a blog—and it all came together like that.