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By Kiri Tannenbaum

Step Into Julia Child’s Legendary Kitchen

One of, if not the, most popular artifacts of the Smithsonian museum's collection is something food-related—the kitchen of America's most pioneering chef, Julia Child.

There’s a lot to miss about Julia Child. Her singsongy way of speaking, her capacity to laugh at her own mistakes, her endless depth of culinary knowledge, and her ability to make all cooks feel confident. Though you won’t catch her wielding cleavers or reaching up a chicken carcass to grab the giblet, you can still get a glimpse of those turquoise kitchen cabinets and countertops where she did that and more. Only instead of heading to New England, you’ll have to travel to Washington, D.C.

 

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When Julia Child vacated her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she donated the kitchen designed 40 years prior by her husband Paul to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The culinary laboratory–with coffee maker, Kitchen Aid, towels, and peg board all intact–is where she stood preparing the evening’s supper, developed and researched recipes, and where she shot her public television series for Boston’s public station, WGBH.

The kitchen is part of the permanent exhibit, Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000 and located on the first floor of the museum in the East Wing. It features Julia’s 14′ x 20′ kitchen exactly as it was in November 2001 when she gifted it. Though visitors are not able to walk through the kitchen, there are three areas set into the actual doorways that led to other rooms of the Child’s house which offer optimal viewing.

Surrounding the kitchen are photographs, memorabilia, and a video featuring clips from Julia’s television cooking programs, from the 1960s black-and-white series “The French Chef”, to “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home”, taped in her the very kitchen in the late 1990s.

It is one of the most popular artifacts of the Smithsonian museum’s collection, so when in Washington, D.C., be sure to pay a visit to the kitchen of this pioneering woman who permanently changed the way Americans cook and think about food.

 

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