Friday, April 18, 2014

Washington DC Day 2 - Julia Child's Kitchen

Since we had decided to make this trip relatively spur of the moment, not a tremendous amount of planning went into what we would do once we got there, other than "see the sights". But as we were taking a quick look at the various museums to see what they had to offer, one thing jumped out at both Amp and I as something that we really wanted to see: the Smithsonian Museum of American History had Julia Child's kitchen. Not a replica or a recreation. The actual kitchen.
Sink side with oven

In 2001, three years before her death in 2004 at the age of 91, Julia donated the entire kitchen from her Cambridge MA home to the Smithsonian. Everything except the flooring was taken apart, brought to the Smithsonian, and reassembled as part of a "Food in America, 1950-2000" exhibit (ceiling, walls, pots, pans, knives, gadgets, everything). This is the kitchen in which they filmed most of her shows over the decades, and there were still metal rails along the tops of the walls in a few places where they used to hang the TV lights during filming.
Stove side

I've been a foodie for a long time, and have always loved Julia Child. I was too young to know her from the French Chef days of early food TV, but I'm very aware of what she meant to food, wine, and home cooking in America. Everybody cooking on Public Broadcasting channels, Food Network, or anywhere else on TV owes a huge debt of gratitude to this pioneer. And she was hilarious, intentional or not.
Far side with books

The kitchen itself, viewed through Plexiglas windows and doorways, was familiar from some of her later shows (which I did watch regularly in the 1990s), and was entirely utilitarian. Other than the fact that it must have been considerably larger than most kitchens of its day, it had very little in common with today's modern high end kitchens. Knives and tools were hung up on simple racks, or stood in jars. Pots, pans and various other things were hung from pegboard which had been mounted on the walls. It some ways, it looked more like a workshop than a kitchen (which I guess in some respects it was).
"Batterie de Cuisine"

It was especially neat to see the small bookcase near one of the doorways, filled with a variety of cookbooks, including many of her own (with "Kitchen" handwritten on the spine), as well as video tapes, phone books, and the other paraphernalia of everyday life.
Julia's own books

Having already been to this museum on our last trip (to see the Star Spangled Banner flag, etc), after touring the Food exhibit and a couple other things, we went to lunch (fantastic Vietnamese food out of a food truck), and then spent the rest of the afternoon with more sightseeing... [more to come]

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