Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Julia's Kitchen

I love my iPhone but the camera leaves a lot to be desired.

The Smithsonian museums are sometimes referred to as the nation's attic.  Fair enough if your attic includes the Hope Diamond, the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner, and thousands of other objects and documents.  There's no admission so what are you waiting for?  What's better is that the design of the exhibits is almost uniformly well done.  This is an attic with no dust, no must, and something for every interest. 

Over the weekend, my older child and I made a visit to the National Museum of American History and almost immediately gravitated to Julia Child's kitchen, donated in its entirety by the great chef when she retired from Cambridge, Massachusetts back to her home state of California just a few years before she passed away.  The pots and pans, hung on a pegboard, were donated to another institution which has since folded and the whole mess has been recreated at the Smithsonian.  Although you can't step past the glass, it's easy to imagine her washing dishes at the sink, chopping up a storm, and sitting down at that long table for a delicious meal.  In addition to the kitchen itself, the exhibit describes the major milestones in her cooking career and documents her impact on American food ways and educational television.  Plus there are a lot of great video clips, many from her various shows as well as interviews conducted in 2001.
I can't imagine anyone who could resist Child's good humor and enthusiasm for food, but the videos and physical objects all mean so much more to me now that I've spent time in Paris, the spot where she first began to cook in earnest.  There are the pots from Dehillerin, her diploma from Le Cordon Bleu, and photos of her apartment, stuck under the rafters on rue de l"Universite.  Thankfully you don't have to be in Paris to love good cooking.   Just visiting the exhibit inspired me to get out her cookbook again and start dreaming up menus.   Hmmmm....now what should we have for dinner tonight? 


  1. Which one of Julia's recipes did you make for dinner? Coq au vin, Boeuf Bourguignon or something more complicated? Sometimes just digging out the cookbooks and looking at all of the dishes that I "could" make is so satisfying that I don't even make it to the next step.

    Thanks for the tip about Julia's kitchen. I've visited some of the other Smithsonian Museums but not the Nat'l Museum of American History.

  2. I love Julia's kitchen too. It was the centerpiece of my first blogpost http://motherwouldknow.com/journal/why-i-worship-julia-child.html
    Did you know that it was just her 99th birthday. Too bad she is not around to celebrate with us - I miss her infectious chuckle. But her spirit is definitely alive - and not just at the Smithsonian.