In the 1960s, Julia Child succeeded in turning an entire nation on to French onion soup. This is just one reason why the kitchen belonging to this American cookery icon is today housed in the same wing of the National Museum in Washington, like the Apollo 13 rocket. Both were risky, if ultimately successful missions.
Child’s original kitchen today seems like an echo from another age, without the need for the shiny, cold, metal or stone surfaces of contemporary kitchens, and making no attempt to hide the impressive array of pots, pans and machines within perfectly crafted kitchen units. Quite the opposite: Everything is visible and yet perfectly organized in the kitchen that was specially made for her. The space proudly displays its intended purpose – a place for cooking and eating.
It was Paul Child, Julia’s husband, a diplomat, who designed the kitchen’s intricate system where every one of the cooking utensils has its own place. He cut standard retail peg boards to size before drawing the outline of every pan onto the board with a marker, ensuring that every tool easily found its way back to its designated place after use. With everything clearly visible and conveniently at hand, Julia never had to search for long for whatever she needed.
As this kitchen is completely different to the ones so often heralded in lifestyle magazines nowadays – kitchens that almost appear to want to disguise the fact they are actually kitchens – architect Pamela Heyne and Julia Child’s food photographer, Jim Scherer, decided to document Child’s kitchens in a wonderful book. The publication kicks off with a letter which Child wrote to Heyne, in which she philosophizes that architects don’t understand anything about kitchens. The book is an open-ended voyage of discovery into the orderly world of a kitchen where the great desire to cook is only exceeded by the tangible anticipation to eat the delicious end product with friends at the large dinner table in the middle of the space. After all, in Child’s world, this is the true goal of great cooking.
Pamela Heyne, Jim Scherer: In Julia’s Kitchen, Practical and Convivial Kitchen Design inspired by Julia Child, 2016.