Today is would have been Julia Child’s 107th birthday, had we not lost the renowned cookbook author, television chef, and godmother of French cooking in American 15 years ago. But food fanatics and rookies alike still look to her culinary wisdom and reassuring recipes when they step into their kitchen to cook. The best way to honor Julia, we assume, would be to do just that: turn on the oven, light the stove, roast a chicken. But if you’re looking to get a little more insight into the woman who changed how America cooks, celebrate her birthday by planning a visit to her kitchen.
Julia’s kitchen from her Cambridge, Massachusetts home sits in a place of honor in our nation’s capital, the centerpiece and starting point for an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution about American foodways. Julia cooked in the kitchen for about 60 years, and even filmed her television shows in it. In 2001, she donated the kitchen and all the tools and equipment to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where it now lives as part of the Food: Transforming the American Table” exhibition and anyone can visit. (Though it will be closed for renovations September 3 through October 24, 2019, so either go soon, or wait a bit.)
“It’s certainly the soul of our house, and that’s one reason Paul [her husband] designed it the way he did with nice colors. It’s an attractive room, I think. It’s a work room that’s good looking,” she said of the kitchen, where she spent so much of her time.
One of the curators of the exhibit, Paula Johnson, wrote a piece in honor of her birthday, describing some of the quirks and important parts of both the exhibit and the process of meeting Julia and acquiring it, which is highly worth the read to get insight on who the woman behind the stove was: “it was Julia’s calm demeanor, her steady and engaging conversation, and her enormous good will that nourished us in ways we would never forget.”
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