Editor’s Note: Today's post is the last in a series about the museum's work in Julia Child’s kitchen. Caitlin Dichter is a Museum Studies graduate student at The George Washington University.
Gently cradling the ceramic crock, I checked its condition. My gloved finger brushed along the strip of masking tape just beginning to show its age. On it—in bold, sure lines—was written one word: "Forkery." I smiled.
When I first stepped, in sock-clad feet, into Julia Child's kitchen, I kept my eyes trained for minute details and examined the objects for signs of age. I had assumed that I would grow familiar with the objects around me—but I didn't anticipate that I would get to know something about Julia as well.
All throughout the exhibit, I found signs of the culinary legend's warmth and humor, her unique personality. Julia favored order in her workspace, as evinced by the various visual aids that assign each object to a particular place in the kitchen. For example, pot-shaped outlines on the pegboard-covered walls indicate where the pots should hang, Polaroid snapshots show exactly where pans belong, and labels on containers identify where different kinds of utensils are housed.
Next to the crock labeled "Forkery" is one dedicated to "Spoonery." Julia, who admitted she could never resist a good kitchen gadget, allotted certain utensils to overflow categories like "Misc + Spats" (for "Miscellaneous and Spatulas")and "Mostly Wood." Inside the latter—a personal favorite of mine—one can find wooden spoons, tongs, and even utensils whose purpose I remain uncertain of.
Guests in the kitchen would know not only the proper location of various kitchenware, but also how to use the electric disposal, thanks to detailed instructions affixed next to the sink on blue labels. I had already known that you don't put oil down the drain, but I never realized that artichoke leaves don't belong down there as well.
Julia did not seem fond of an empty space. Every possible nook and cranny in the kitchen reveals a memento, particularly cats expressing a wide range of emotions: there are happy cats, grumpy cats, sleepy cats, and even felines with asparagus.
The past few months have come and gone so quickly, a whirlwind of an experience that I won’t soon forget. While I learned a great deal about the state of the objects on display, the experience has been made all the more memorable because I got to know Julia through the idiosyncrasies scattered throughout her famous workspace. I am convinced she would have been a fascinating person to know—in fact, in homage to this charismatic woman, I think I will have to go label something!
Caitlin Dichter is a Museum Studies graduate student at The George Washington University.