Sometimes the fanciest kitchen/dining room by a famous designer is not the most captivating. This is Julia Child’s Dining Room in Cambridge, Massachusettes. It seems appropriate since we just celebrated her birthday.
The chairs have the New England-style Shaker hand-woven rush seats; I still have the chairs like this my mother bought in the late 1950s. The largest painting on the facing wall, “Kunming Street Scene”, was painted by Paul Child. Julia and Paul preferred to entertain in the kitchen rather than the dining room.
Below are photos of Julia’s real home kitchen in Cambridge, which was delightfully recreated for the movie Julie and Julia. Paul called it her “alchemist’s aerie.” It would be taken apart and reconstructed in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., preserved frozen in time, where you can visit it today.
What are the elements of the kitchen. The plastic coated checked tablecloth on the table they bought in Oslo, the blonde wood chairs, the circular straw place mats, all remind me of my grandmother’s and my ex’s granny’s kitchens where I spent my youth and learned about cooking–so casual, comforting, well-used, and inviting.
The chairs are mix and match, the cupboards pale blue and the drawers pale green, so personal a color combination. The appliances look like they were acquired at various times, like the black fridge/stainless wall oven with lower bun warmer that began showing up in 1980s kitchens, rather than all at once and manufacturer-matched in a remodel. This is still a tricked out home kitchen, not a copy of a cookie- cutter professional kitchen that is so popular today in kitchens that don’t see a lot of cooking. There are plenty of pots and pans in easy access that would follow Julia to every kitchen she worked in–sort of a Julia Child special collected one by one from Dehillerin culinary shop in Paris while she was taking classes at the Cordon Bleu and cooking every day for Paul. On the pegboard near the stove is a wall with the shape of the pans outlined for easy return; something Julia commented on often how she loved this. There is another pegboard with outlines next to the oven with utensils. No rummaging in low cupboards or drawers while cooking; everything is at arm’s reach not to distract from the cooking preparation.
The counters (raised higher when they bought the house to accommodate Julia’s tall stature) and shelf over the stove are lined with canisters and jars with everyday used items. Every available space is filled by a cook who cooks a lot.
I love the potholder hanging on the side of the Garland six-burner gas range, just where we all like them so we can grab them without looking. There is tract lighting, probably installed for photography by Paul. There exists a lovely old photo of Julia and her Knopf editor Judith Jones sitting on the long side of the table in the Irving Street kitchen editing her deep pile of Mastering manuscript together. Ah, the days before computers when editing was done by hand.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2014
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.
These two following photos are of different views of the kitchen as recreated in the Smithsonian.