I was in Washington, DC for a conference last week and the main non-conference plan on my to-do list was to visit, finally, Julia Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian.
I love Julia Child. I have happy memories of her voice trilling from the TV in my mom’s kitchen when I was growing up, and I spent a significant portion of graduate school watching her various cooking shows, too. Her memoir, My Life In France, is one of the most honest and lively I’ve ever read, and her cookbooks, of course, are classics. I’d seen pictures of her kitchen, read descriptions of it, but none of that is the same as seeing it in person.
So, my sister and I made a very long and rainy pilgrimage from one side of DC to the other last Saturday to visit Julia Child’s kitchen. There was the wall of copper pans, their outlines marked in pen by Child’s husband, Paul, so she would always return them to their proper spot on the pegboard:
There was the bookshelf holding different editions of Joy of Cooking (just like my mom’s kitchen bookshelf, just like mine). There was the big kitchen table, with comfortable-looking chairs around it. It’s not a fancy kitchen at all, just really well-designed and organized. And there, outside the kitchen, among the photographs and newspaper stories about her career, was this plaque with a quote from the cook herself:
That’s why I love Julia Child, really. Because all her enthusiasm about people learning to use cream and butter and wine in their cooking didn’t matter at all if they weren’t then enjoying that cooking with other people, together, right in their kitchens. It’s that table (that table I didn’t take a picture of! but you can look at some images here), it’s that table that symbolizes more than any wall of copper pots and pans.
I don’t actually have a kitchen table. I have a renovated kitchen with modern features like an island and a raised bar behind the stove that we sit at for breakfast. But you don’t actually need a kitchen table — only a kitchen — to get what Julia Child wants us to get. It’s what Lisa and I say, in various ways, regularly in this space and now I have Julia Child’s version of it, too. It bears repeating: Gather people in your home and feed them. Make this a habit. Bon Appetit!