My interview with Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Nora Ephron


What happens when a certain angel at Columbia Pictures tells you that she’s secured 25 minutes for you with Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Nora Ephron in Beverly Hills before the grand opening of Julie & Julia? Well, you do a small happy dance, check for batteries in your interview recorder, iron a shirt and join the select few who are lucky enough to meet these beautiful and insanely talented women. And then you begin to think about the questions you want to ask and hope that you’re not distracted by Meryl’s big laugh or Amy’s giant dreamy eyeballs.  That’s exactly what you do.

The rules were simple: ask anything and everything and take no pictures. Ok, I can do that! I must admit that it’s hard not to think you might be a bit starstruck by meeting all three but once Meryl Streep walks into a room you cannot help but relax and smile. It’s a side I’ve never seen of her and she completely puts everyone at ease. And if you thought Amy Adams was beautiful on the big screen then you ain’t seen nothing. They are really quite special. And the icing on the cake was meeting writer and director Nora Ephron. So let’s get to the questions.

Q: So what drew each of you to the story and the film?

Meryl: I read Nora’s script which was extremely beautiful and interesting and I thought it was probably not commercial whatsoever and I was very worried about her sanity and with financing! They were willing to give us the money and I think it’s turned out really well!

I just really love the story of these two women looking for their calling. I just thought it was extremely touching and also delicately written, not hammered on the head. That’s so hard to find. It’s hard to find beautiful subtly written stories. It’s a hopeful story.

Amy: It was gentle.

Q: What was the last thing that each of you cooked at home?

Meryl: Nora just gave me an Ina Garten Cookbook and Saturday I made Tuscan Lemon Chicken which is highly recommended, it was a big hit. And I have a shortcut for zesting 4 lemons that I might share with you!

Q: Amy, when we met with Susan Spungen, food stylist on Julie & Julia, she told us about the food styling side of the movie and working with you.  She said she spent a couple of sessions with you at ICE. How comfortable were you in the kitchen before and after your training?

Amy: I’m not really intimidated by the kitchen. I think I’m a little bit tidier now that I’ve learned the correct way of doing stuff so it doesn’t look as messy. My chopped salad is more consistent now. She gave me a lot of great tips and a lot of shortcuts that I never would have thought of so I don’t mind preparation as much. That’s opened up a world of cooking to me because I have much more enjoyment of prep work.

Meryl interjects: I just wonder if Julia Child had four children if she would have cooked the way she did!

But I learned patience. I realized that in my life so often I get home and I had planned something and then there’d be some disaster with somebody that would keep me from one element of the meal and then someone would scream “WHEN IS THAT GOING TO BE READY?!”

Q: Prior to the movie did any of you read food blogs?

Amy: No.
Meryl: No
Nora: I do, I read Chowhound and I use it for new restaurants. I read Ed Levine’s blog Serious Eats and then my sister Amy has a food blog, One For The Table, so I do, I love them!  You could ruin a day reading them, there are so many good food blogs, it’s amazing. But I hadn’t read Julie Powell’s blog until I read about it in the New York Times.

Meryl: That was the first time I heard about it. There was something about that article that jumped up. It was an unusual challenge that she had set for herself.

Q: Julie Powell told us that you printed out a lot of her entries and went through them with her. Why was that important for you to do?

Nora: If I had found a section that I wanted to amplify beyond what was in the blog then I interviewed her. There were a couple of chronological things that I was confused by and I wanted to figure all of that out. And basically I just wanted to hear her talk a little bit more about some of the events I chose to do in the movie because it was about 2000 pages printed out of the blog with all the comments. I had 8 huge binders of material and I had winnowed it down and then I had figured out what I was going to do of it, what scenes had to be done. I had to do the meltdown scene, I had to do the lobster scene and I became really interested in her mother. Her mother really got into her blog and wrote slightly inappropriate things and I was so amused that she had sort of become a character in the blog. That was really mostly what it was, just to amplify.

Q: When we screened the movie a few weeks ago we got to speak with Chris Messina (Julie Powell’s on-screen husband) afterwards and he talked about the food discipline when you’re shooting a scene all day and how you might have to eat 35 bruschetta. Do you have any experiences like that?

Meryl: I didn’t! Surprisingly I didn’t have a problem with it! No, we didn’t have to eat as much and with such gusto.  You have to realize how many times he did it: in the master, in the midshot, in the closeup, the over shoulder, he ate a lot of bruschetta! And he did it everytime! He did a great job.

Amy: I did mostly this (she pretends to eat while talking). I was like “I’m talking so I can take a bite here”.  It was important to know that we really enjoyed the food. But I hadn’t figured out and I still haven’t figured out how Chris Messina did it. How he was able to eat and talk and nothing falls out! It must be a structural thing! With me I would talk and it’d be a full show! No way. I had a different relationship with the food on set but we all really enjoyed it. Like the chocolate cake moment, that was so much fun. But we also negotiated what we ate the night before by asking “what are we shooting tomorrow?” Ok, then I’ll have a small dinner and a small breakfast and then I’ll be hungry. It definitely helped.

Meryl: I never ate off set. Never never never. There was no need.

Q: So were your meals off camera the foods you were preparing during the scenes?

Meryl: That was the reward at the end of the day, after we had the shots. Like the sole, oh the sole! You could smell it. You could smell it!

Q: Where you familiar with Julia Child beforehand?

Amy: I was familiar with her but more as a characterization. But not the real intimate details of her life.

Q: Nora, you’ve written about Julia Child previously. Was there a sense of fate in this film?

Nora: Totally and completely. I don’t mean to be ridiculous but I really did think “I should write this!” When they first told me about this movie as a director they already put a writer on it and I was not happy about it. I was hoping something would happen so that I would get to write it and she would not (we all laugh!) and my prayers were answered because she got a big television series on the air and that was the end of her! Then I got to step in and I got to do it! I was thrilled.

Q: Nora, did you see any parts of yourself in the characters?

Nora: Yes, I see parts of myself in both women. I see many of my worst qualities in the occasional moments of Julie Powell. There’s no question that I don’t have Julia Child’s fantastic sunny disposition. And there are definite pieces of my marriage in the Julia Child story because I am married to an extremely nice guy, so was Julia Child. I didn’t make up Paul Child, he was exactly like that.  The moment in the movie when Julia is rejected by Houghton Mifflin and he cheers her up is a scene that we played into our house on many occasions, right down to the last two words of it (I will leave this out, go see the movie!)

Q: A friend wanted me to ask if working on this film made you more appreciative of the men in your life, but it sounds like you already are! I mean you guys were working with characters that loved you so thoroughly and that was so special to see.

Meryl: What’s unusual is that you never see that. All the sustaining things, all the supporting things, just the fact that someone loves you even when you’re a brat. Even when you’re completely boring!

It’s such a valuable part of many women’s lives, and men’s lives, too. It’s kind of like a bath of pleasure to have that! I would look at Stanley Tucci (as Julia’s husband Paul) and just the way he looked at me made me feel beautiful! Then I’d go back to my dressing room, look in the mirror and think “Wow, I really believed him”.  It was really wonderful.

Q: How did you prepare for the role as Julia?

Meryl: I didn’t really prepare too well. I kept preparing as we went on. I cooked out of the book which I had never done and I actually had my arguments with her about how she would do certain things! But I looked at the video tapes and the American Masters series that they did on Julia Child and for me the most valuable parts were the early tapes, before she got hyperbolic about what she was doing, the curly cues of Julia Child, the flourishes. But the earliest stuff mostly.

Q:  How has this role changed your perspective on food?

Amy: It hasn’t necessarily changed my perspective on food but how I’m cooking and the reasons I’m cooking. I take my time now, I enjoy it. I’m starting to cook with my friends a lot more in tandem and I’m realizing how wonderful it is.

Q: Do you cook from Julia’s book as well?

Amy: Yes, that was one of the assignments Nora gave me. We had to cook a dish  from the book and blog about it and my dish was Brussels Sprouts with Cheese and I can’t even say it in French because I’ll sound really foolish. But they were beautiful and I wrote about it, much to my chagrin. I have so much respect for writers. If I was envious of anything, aside from height, it’s writing!

Q: in some capacity you’ve all worked together in some form. Any plans on working together again?

Nora: Well I’ve never worked with Amy before.
Meryl: But I’ve worked with you Amy before, separately.
Amy: Yes, it’s like 6 degrees of separation.

Nora: Oh god I hope so!

Amy: We’re going to play Siamese twins in our next film.

Matt says: I know I’d like that!


Julie & Julia opens August 7th. Thanks to Columbia Pictures for setting this all up and a huge thanks to Nora Ephron, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams and my fellow blog pals!

Yo Party People, Summer Fest Is In The House!


Well hello there! Do you know what time it is? It’s Summer Fest! And what is Summer Fest, you ask? It’s a 4-week celebration of fresh-from-the-garden food including recipes, growing tips, even tricks for storing and preserving summer’s best.  And I’m very excited to be hosting this year with Margaret Roach of A Way To Garden. If you remember, last year the fest began with Margaret and Deb Puchalla and was such a fun way of “getting” together and talking about food and the bounty of the garden. More than that, it was filled with useful information and was such a great resource to me.  I joined in during a few weeks and was pleased when Margaret asked if I’d be interested in participating again. How fast can one say yes?

Since Margaret is the professional type and spent years in publishing and me, well, I’m just a Career Troublemaker, I’m gonna let her tell you the 411:


Summer Fest 2009 is a four-week, cross-blog celebration co-created (alphabetically listed) by A Way to Garden, Matt Armendariz of Mattbites, Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, and Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple, with guest appearances from Shauna and Daniel Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl, Simmer Till Done’s Marilyn Pollack Naron, and Paige Smith Orloff of The Sister Project.  And from you—that’s critical. Your contributions are desired, and needed.


  • Tuesday, July 28: HERBS. Any and all.
  • Tuesday, August 4: FRUITS FROM TREES (also known as stone fruits, but we won’t scream if you toss in a berry or another fruit, promise).
  • Tuesday, August 11: BEANS-AND-GREENS WEEK (either or both, your choice).
  • Tuesday, August 18: TOMATO WEEK. How do you like them love apples?


summerfest-badgeSo now it’s your turn: Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? Starting Tuesday July 28, you can contribute in various ways, big or small. It’s up to you: Contribute a whole post, a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:

Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on Margaret’s blog at A Way To Garden, and then go visit the collaborators and do the same.

The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.

Or think bigger: Publish entire entire posts of your own, if you wish, and grab the juicy Summer Fest 2009 tomato badge (illustrated by Matt Armendariz of Mattbites).

Get in on the fun: Come comment, link to things from your own archives or the archives of your favorite blogs, post entire recipe in comments or on your blog.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how a Summer Fest works. Isn’t that grand?


small cocktailThe kickoff subject this week is HERBS, and I chuckled just a bit when Margaret said “Any and all” because I pictured her in a ’78 van emblazoned with super graphics and a bubble window while riding along with Cheech and Chong. Of course we’re talking about delicious happy culinary herbs so I’ll put my overactive imagination to rest.

Man, if there’s one thing I can grow it’s herbs. Ok, maybe one doesn’t really grow herbs as much as let them do their things, and that’s fine with me. Of course my tiny herb patch is an embarassment when you look at the garden of my friends Todd & Diane but then again my cooking needs are modest in comparison to those two. I’ll need a sprig or two to finish a dish or a chopped handful to add to an omelette, but where I really believe my herbs shine are in my cocktails.

What? You didn’t think I wasn’t going to bring all this back to booze, did you?

• MINT Well there’s a reason it’s called a Mint Julep in the first place. And you cannot make a Mojito without it.  But my cocktail mint love doesn’t end there. I love springs of mint as garnish with vodka and soda, mixed into daquiries and just about any place where I want a bright dash of unexpected flavor.

• BASIL Ooh child, let me tell you something: basil was meant to be used in cocktails. You can make Basil Mojitos, add it to strawberry puree and vodka, put it in a martini, and it’s fantastic in a bloody mary.

• CILANTRO Ok, so there’s that love/hate thing with it so I don’t use it often. But I do love the long tall springs in a bloody mary or I’ll use it for garnish when it begins to flower. Que purdy.

• DILL Well, maybe I spoke too soon. I only know of one cocktail that uses dill and it’s call — wait for it — The Real Dill. It has tequila, vodka, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, English cucumber and a sprig of dill. It’s kinda nice but not my favorite.

• THYME and bonus points for LEMON THYME Thyme Bellinis, Berry Thyme Margaritas, Cucumber & Thyme Martinis, you catch my drift? I’m in love with Thyme in my drinks. It gives an herbal note without being too strong and seems so perfectly suited for spirits.

• ROSEMARY If there are a million ways to feature rosemary in a cocktail I wouldn’t know it. I’m stuck on one: A Rosemary Salty Dog. I’ll go so far as to say it’s a stellar drink that has spoiled me from an original. Seriously folks, try this:

1 grapefruit wedge and kosher salt
one 1-inch piece of rosemary sprig, plus 1 sprig for garnish
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 ounces fresh red grapefruit juice
1 1/2 ounces Hendrick’s Gin

Moisten the outer rim of a martini glass with the grapefruit wedge and coat lightly with salt. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the 1-inch rosemary sprig with the sugar. Add the grapefruit juice, gin and ice and shake vigorously. Strain into the martini glass and garnish with the rosemary sprig.

What else what else! Do you have any interesting uses for herbs in your drinks?


• Want to know how to grow and preserve a year of parsley? Margaret is your gal!

• My good friends Todd & Diane of White On Rice Couple give us a primer on Vietnamese herbs. H-E-A-V-E-N-L-Y is all I can say.

• A wonderful twist to traditional pesto using peanuts and basil with my gorgeous friend Jaden of Steamy Kitchen

Julie & Julia – and Susan!


When Julie & Julia opens on August 7 you’ll see an uncanny performance of Meryl Streep as Julia Child, some silly and overly sweet moments involving Julie Powell and plenty of food in almost every scene. It’s enough to make you want to run to France or your kitchen shelf to grab “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.

Last week I joined a few film and food bloggers in Hollywood for a special screening of Julie & Julia.  The event was followed by a chat with Julie “I’m Not A Blogger” Powell as well as actor Chris Messina who plays her husband. The event was held at Le Cordon Bleu in Hollywood and featured a cooking demonstration by Chef Brian Malarky with recipes inspired by the movie, a combination of Julie Powell’s book and Julia Child’s My Life In France. I had a swell time chatting with Julie (we’re both from Austin, y’all) and one of the highlights of the day was meeting Susan Spungen. As a food photographer I was particularly interested in hearing about her experience on the film but was pleasantly surprised that everyone else wanted to know, too!


Susan was the lead food stylist on Julie & Julia and responsible for every bit of food created in the movie. If it was cooked or prepared by Julia Child she did it. If it was attempted by Julie Powell then she did that, too. This was no easy feat but once you read Susan’s bio it’s easy to see how she pulled it off. As a cook, food stylist, recipe developer, editor and author, she worked with Martha Stewart for many years as food editor and now writes, styles, advises and works in film. She’s gorgeous, jovial, knows her stuff and is a stylist from heaven, if you ask me.

If you’ve worked on a food shoot in the print world or photographed food for your blog then you know you pretty much have complete control over what you’re doing. The world of films are entirely different. Not only must the food be completely edible for the actors to eat but you’re also working with a much larger team where scenes require multiple takes. This cannot be easy, people!

Susan talked about a key component that makes film so different than print. “You might not realize the magic of filmaking. They’ll do a master where it’s a shot of everybody in the scene and film it over and over again. Then they’ll shoot each person at the table saying their lines over and over again, eating the same food over and over again. It’s complicated and takes all day.”

toasting-the-cheeseA scene in the movie that strikes fear in the heart of Julie Powell involves boning a duck. Susan said that was the least of her worries and was more concerned with getting a “cheese pull” for a bowl of onion soup pulled off correctly. A Cheese Pull is exactly what you think it is: those long stringy sections of cheese you see in pizza commercials or grilled cheese advertisements. And folks, you wouldn’t believe what stylists must do to get that on a good day, let alone on a movie shoot where you can’t stand next to the food and poke and prod it into submission.

Susan brought her script and read a section about a montage that terrorized her: “Both of them cooking. Both of them having the best time. Julia sharpens a knife. Julie sharpens a knife. Julia makes a watercress soup in a foodmill. Julie makes a watercress soup in a cuisinart. Julia types the words ‘practice outdoors with half a cup of dried beans’. Julie practices outside her apartment building with an omelette pan and half a cup of dried beans. Julia makes a floating island. Julie types the words ‘so last night I made a floating island.’ Julia eats onion soup and the cheese extends from her soup to her lips. Julie eats onion soup and the cheese extends from her soup to her lips.”

Susan shared the challenges of making food hot enough to melt cheese yet not hot enough to burn Meryl Streep’s face off. My heart is pounding just thinking about that.

It’s one thing when you have to make something as beautiful as possible, but what about when you must show the mishaps in the kitchen? Without revealing too much from the movie she also discussed the food accidents throughout the movie. How to make an aspic incorrectly? Add a bit of heat and liquid. Need your chicken’s stuffing to slide all over the floor? Tweak the recipe. But for the most part all of the food in Julie & Julia is real, it’s edible, and all from Julia Child’s Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.

Amy-AdamsAnd what about the actors? What if they’re not the most comfortable in the kitchen? Again, Susan to the rescue. She spent two 4-hour sessions at ICE in New York with Amy Adams running through the things she’d be doing on camera like practicing knifes skills and learning to poach an egg incorrectly. And what about Meryl Streep? “Meryl’s great. Even though she says she doesn’t cook she knows what she’s doing” said Susan.

Susan ended her talk with a demonstration on getting her onion soup to melt and bubble over and it took everything in my power not to run up and grab it. She’s working on a new film and I do hope she lets us know what it is soon so we can all gawk over her beautiful work. Thanks Susan!

Julie & Julia opens August 7th. Thanks to Sony Pictures, the folks at Le Cordon Bleu, Julie Powell and Susan Spungen. Images of Meryl Streep and Amy Adams from Sony Pictures, the rest by yours truly.

Cornichon and Gelato

When my friend Tana asked if I’d be interested in taking her maternity photos I couldn’t say yes fast enough!  We often joke about how she is the long lost sister of my husband: they’re both big, tall, gorgeous redheads. Plus she’s got the sweetest husband on the planet. While I don’t normally share the photos I take unrelated to food on my site I couldn’t help but post this because 1) there will be a new baby girl in my extended family and I’m going to be an adopted uncle and 2) Tana’s brilliant idea of Pickles & Ice Cream makes me laugh and I had to share it. Guess that’s one of the perks of being married to a food stylist, no?


With love and smiles and anticipation…we can’t wait to meet her, T & B! We love you guys so very much.

P.S. We’ll both be tweeting the birth. They’ll let me and a photo assistant in there during labor, right?

Skillet Jam On It






Yea, it’s that good.  Don’t take my word for it, order some today. And don’t forget you can also visit Foodzie to order!

I’m gonna let you thank me later.

Twitter: Bacon Jam and Yours Truly.

Skillet Bacon Jam was sent for review.