Celebrity chefs are nothing new. The Regency era had Marie-Antoine Carême, who cooked for emperors and kings. But he worked in vast palace kitchens, with an army of helpers, preparing extravagant meals for hundreds of people at a time.
Julia Child worked, so far as we could see, in her own kitchen, and in the era before the Food Channel and 24/7 shows featuring celebrity chefs and wannabe celebrity chefs, she brought to American viewers her own unforgettable way with cooking. While perhaps not as glamorous as Carême’s, her story is at least as exciting. Maybe working for the OSS during WWII gave her the wherewithal to take on France’s male cooking establishment, or maybe she was just born that way. But I figure it took some nerve for a woman—and an American—to try to succeed at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in the 1940s. I guess it helps to be six foot two, towering over all those Frenchmen who are certain you Don’t Belong Here and probably wish you would go away. But one must have guts, too, (those knives are very big and very sharp) and a certain strength of character and an optimistic spirit. Whatever it took, she got her diploma, and went on to write a cookbook still considered a classic, and to host her famous and much-loved cooking show.
The movie Julie and Julia, wherein Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci shone as Julia and Paul Child, reminded me what a delight she was. So, when I found myself in Washington, D.C., some weeks ago, I went straight to the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, to see Julia Child’s Kitchen. This wasn’t the only item of interest there, but it was Number One on my list.
Here's the diploma and one view of the kitchen. I'll put up additional photos at my other blog.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.