Food: Transforming the American Table is one of the museum’s smaller exhibitions, at 3,800 square feet. The exhibition entrance is off-center to the right-hand side. To the left of the entryway, the exhibit’s title is spelled out in large letters with the letters F, O, O, D standing the largest at over a foot tall. The oversized letters that spell “food” are outlines filled in with photographic images related to food, including brightly-colored grocery store shelves, crisp green lettuce, a juicy hamburger, and a bucolic farm field. The rest of the letters in the title are solid black. The title is mounted on a background designed to look like a billboard along a roadway and lit from above by three silver, gooseneck lamps.
Julia Child’s Kitchen
While the opening to the exhibition is to the right, there is a door-sized window, to the left of the title sign, into Julia Child’s home kitchen. Everything, including the walls, cabinets, floors, pots, pans, and plates were packed up and transported to the museum, and are now laid out just as they were in Julia’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, home. The kitchen measures twenty feet by fourteen feet. It is both inviting and busy, with soft blues and greens on the walls and cabinets, all of which are filled with the tools of a working kitchen. The walls are mostly covered in stem green or blue cabinets with silver knobs. The countertops are made of lightly stained butcher block. The floor is linoleum with a pattern of tiny white, pink, tan, and green squares. Where there are no cabinets, the walls are covered by large, cream-colored peg-boards. Mrs. Child used these peg-boards to hang her many pots and pans and other kitchen tools and equipment. Copper pots of many sizes and some iron and silver-colored pans hang on the walls in spots marked with black outlines. One of the peg-board walls holds a set of four food mills, hung at the very top near the ceiling. They are silver machines of varied sizes, the biggest about the size of a watermelon and the smallest about the size of a softball. They are cone-shaped containers, with silver handles. A crank emerges from the center of each cone, with a round red handle at the end. Hanging on another wall nearby are two small, framed paintings, one showing the heads of three cats in front of a row of green asparagus, and the other showing a green artichoke against a light blue sky.
The kitchen cabinets are slightly taller than a typical cabinet would be, to accommodate Mrs. Child’s 6′3″ height. A large black range occupies one corner of the room. Large spider-burners, six in all, sit heavily on the stovetop. A bright red pot and a copper kettle rest on two of the burners. The front of the range is covered in chrome panels and the chrome oven door has a label that reads “Garland.” The stove top is controlled by rectangular chrome knobs.
There is a large kitchen table in the center of the room, made of light-colored wood with four matching wooden chairs. A yellow-orange tablecloth covered in plastic is spread out on top of the table. Each place is set with a circular straw placemat, and the two heads of the table are set with clean, bright red plates. In the center of the table is a large, white ceramic bowl. The bowl has a loose, woven design. You could stick a few fingers through each of the openings that are formed all around its base. Resting inside the bowl are three fake bananas, ready for an afternoon snack or a quick batch of banana bread.