A visit to Julia’s kitchen

Welcome to Museum Week at The Mother of All Trips. This week I’m profiling some museums – both new to us and old favorites – that my family has visited over the past few months and which I haven’t yet written about on the blog. If you like this post, you might also like Five favorite museums to visit with kids, Museum of Science in Boston: Fun enough for a day and then some, or the other posts in my Museums and Zoos section.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: Occasionally when I visit a museum with my children I sneak away while they are otherwise occupied (and Daddy is supervising) to check out something of interest only to me; something that I don’t necessarily feel like working to make kid-friendly or even really explaining in any detail. So in the spring of 2011 when we visited the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, while we all spent lots of time learning about voyages of discovery and presidential politics and antique toys, I also made sure to get some alone time with this room:

Julia Child's kitchen at the National Museum of American HistoryI don’t talk about it here much, but I absolutely love to cook, and of course I love all things French. So Julia Child is something of a hero of mine what with her love affair with cuisine à la française (sparked by a simple meal of sole meuniére in Rouen – you see? You never know where travel will lead you) and her wit and her single-minded pursuit of culinary excellence and her desire to share that excellence with all those people who had the misfortune to never see Paris for themselves. To see her kitchen, which is both completely ordinary and also of course totally special, designed lovingly by her husband Paul to fit her height and and personal tastes, well, let’s just say I wanted to stand and drink it all in without having to help the boys understand why this was supposed to be interesting.

And frankly, how could I have explained why my eyes welled up when I saw her Cordon Bleu diplôme, an achievement about which Julia herself was ambivalent? I’m not even sure why they did myself.

Julia Child's Cordon Bleu diplomaBut the thing I loved seeing the most was the peg board that Paul famously created for her, where I know each copper pan was carefully outlined so it could always be put back where it belonged, the marks as enduring as any love letter. We should all have someone to look after us like that.

Julia Child's pans at the National Museum of American HistoryI offer this as a slightly unorthodox contribution to Wanderfood Wednesday. And if you’ve never read My Life in France, a posthumous memoir published by Child’s nephew after she died in 2004, I recommend it highly.

Reader Responses

10 fellow travelers had this to say

  1. What a lovely tribute to a great chef and cool woman! I’d love to see Julia’s kitchen. I used to live in Cambridge (MA), not too far from her former home, but I was never fortunate enough to be invited to visit.

  2. Interesting to learn about how her husband designed the kitchen for her. What a sweet man!

  3. I love that you sneak off to see the things you love. Traveling with our children is amazing, but you are right, sometimes you just can’t explain why something is so important and sometimes you just don’t want to. After all, most of us started traveling before we had kids and are now taking them along for the ride. Just because we go kid-friendly most of the time, doesn’t mean we can’t take a break for ourselves. And what a break you took. Nothing better than Julia’s kitchen. I still hope to see it one day.

  4. I really wanted to visit this museum after seeing the movie- looks like fun, although I would love to just eat the food!

  5. Oooh! I did the same thing when we visited this past April – except since I was alone, I dropped my guys off at the nearby Kid Explore area and let them build Legos to their heart’s content while I took my time at the exhibit! Great review.

  6. Aww what a lovely post, off to read My Life in France :)

  7. Oh my! I recently publish the similar post! : http://runawayjuno.com/2011/10/21/my-newest-obsession-julia-child/
    Julia Child is an inspiration…. Great post!

  8. I loved My Life in France and I can’t WAIT to see Julia’s Kitchen in D.C. this week!

Join the Conversation