In the postwar United States, modern kitchens became a prominent symbol of an idealized American way of life. For those who could afford them, modern kitchens were stocked with the latest processed foods and filled with labor-saving electric appliances. Home builders promoted and reinforced the kitchen’s significance, relocating it to the front of the house and integrating it with the living and dining rooms. Magazines advertised kitchens as status symbols, while manufacturers encouraged consumers to transform their kitchens into showcases of progress.
Julia Child’s real kitchen both contrasts and harmonizes with the sleek and modern ideal promoted for middle-class suburbanites of the 1950s and ’60s. With her husband, Paul, Julia designed and set up this kitchen in 1961. She had strong opinions about how her kitchen should be arranged. Its simple, painted cabinetry and butcher-block countertops contrast with the shiny surfaces pictured in kitchen brochures of the time. Yet her embrace of new appliances was in keeping with ideas of a “new and improved” kitchen.