Saturday, March 12, 2011

Child's Play

It was My Life In France that did it-- it made me a Julia Child fan. Sure I had grown up with her show on PBS, but then it was the background noise of my childhood. Her memoirs changed that. Transported to Julia Child's apartment in 1940s Paris, I experienced the lushness of the landscape and the cuisine, discovering them through Child's words. Though I'm not one for recipes myself, Child's fastidious and scientific approach to showing Americans how to create French meals revealed a woman whose intelligence and sophistication I grew to admire. And she did it all with a palpable joy and a glass of wine.
So it was with great anticipation that I went to see her kitchen at the Smithsonian. Despite the crowds and the plexiglass, it was a welcoming and intimate kitchen, functional and friendly. It surprised me. While kitchens today are grand marble affairs with center islands and subzero refrigerators, Child's pans on peg boards, knives exposed, cupboards without doors offer insight into her process. I easily envisioned her flowing from one workspace to another, reaching for a spatula, turning on the mixer. Her bookshelf, another marvel, offered even more insight. I've frequently considered the topic of bookshelves, so I relished the chance to see what was here. Audubon's field guilde, Bullfinch's' Mythology, well-worn cookbooks intermingled with an unfussy, unpretentious, utilitarian air. I wanted to plop down at the kitchen table and flip through them while Julia whipped up a simple meal for us. I emerged from my fantasy satisfied, wonderfully transported and surprisingly refreshed, not unlike a great dining experience.

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