Julia Child's Kitchen

Fact Sheet: Julia Child's kitchen at the National Museum of American History

 

  • The kitchen measures 20 x 14 feet, the exact dimensions of Julia Child’s kitchen in Cambridge, Mass. Only the walls and floor were fabricated by the museum and the bananas and tomatoes are replicas. Everything else was Julia’s and was included in her donation to the museum in 2001.
  • The layout of the original kitchen was determined by both Julia and her husband, Paul Child. In 1961, when they moved into the Cambridge house, they organized the kitchen to suit her requirements as a cook. Among the unique features are the maple countertops, which are a few inches higher than standard counters to suit her 6’3” height.
  • Everything in the kitchen—the appliances, counters, cabinets, tools and utensils—is assembled according to its exact placement in Julia’s kitchen as of Nov. 2001, when the museum documented it before taking it apart.
  • The museum collected about 1,200 individual objects, including equipment kept out of sight in cabinets and drawers, but the exhibition presentation includes only those things that can be seen out in the open. Because of Julia’s preference for having her kitchen tools close to hand, however, there are still hundreds of objects to see.
  • The appliances are not hooked up to gas or electricity. While they are in working condition, they will not be used.
  • The six plexiglass viewports into the kitchen are in the actual doorways and windows that existed in the Cambridge house. Two of the doorways led to pantries off the kitchen, the other to a landing and hallway, which connected to the central hall of the house. (The house was built in 1889.)
  • Paul and Julia also arranged the pots, pans, skillets and utensils on pegboard-covered walls, within easy reach of a busy cook. Paul outlined each pot in black marker on the pegboard, making it simple for anyone using the kitchen to put things away properly. The outlined pegboards and reference photos attached to them were created by the Childs.
  • Julia’s original flooring is no longer manufactured, so museum staff created a floor graphic using a sample of her linoleum. The design sample was digitized and a “repeat” pattern was created.  It was then pasted to a thin, rigid support for installation.
  • The Garland, six-burner, gas commercial range was manufactured in the early 1950s, and was already a used restaurant stove when Julia and Paul purchased it for $429 in Washington, D.C., in 1956. Julia sang the praises of her “big Garland” throughout her career, and used it until she donated it to the Smithsonian in 2001.
  • Julia’s knives are arranged on magnetic strips mounted between the kitchen windows and above the sink. With this arrangement she didn’t have to hunt for a knife, she just grabbed what she needed and, when finished, could wash it off and put it away easily. A self-proclaimed “knife freak” Julia collected knives throughout her life.
  • The bookshelf in the kitchen holds the cookbooks and reference works Julia used regularly. It contains “kitchen copies” of her own cookbooks, as well as The Joy of Cooking, Larrouse Gastronomique, The World Atlas of Wine, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, How to Clean Everything and many other titles.
  • The metal pole mounted on the ceiling was installed by A La Carte Communications in the early 1990s. It was one of two that held the television lights necessary for taping the three cooking shows that were staged in Julia’s home kitchen between 1994 and 2001 (“In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs,” “Baking with Julia” and “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home”).
  • Just prior to her gift of the kitchen to the Smithsonian in 2001, Julia lent the wall of pots to a California cultural institution where it was on exhibition until 2008. Upon the return of the pots to her family, they offered the now-legendary pots and pans to the Smithsonian. The exhibition of the kitchen now includes the pegboard covered wall containing her French copper pots, in addition to eight blacksteel crepe pans, four cast iron baking pans, a giant rice ball cooker and a branding iron with the initials “JC.”
  • A 90-minute video, “Julia Child’s Kitchen Wisdom,” produced by A La Carte Communications, will play continuously in the gallery. It features memorable moments from Julia’s televised cooking shows, from the 1960s “The French Chef” through the most recent “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home.”

For More Information
Visit http://americanhistory.si.edu/food