How did I miss that Julia Child, prior to her fame as a kitchen virtuoso, had served as a spy for the United States? I missed that fact just as I had missed seeing her biopic where Meryl Streep stood in for the unsurpassed Julia. But I never missed her saying that the only time to eat diet food was when you were waiting for the steak to cook!
CNBC reports that the original Julia Child home kitchen designed by her husband in 1961 has become a fixture at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
It was in this kitchen that Julia taught cooking, designed innovative recipes, and revealed to the American public the culinary tools and techniques that for decades had been common implements in the Continental kitchen. Were millions surprised!
A kitchen design for a regular family
To have a look at her original kitchen the Smithsonian might give you an even greater appreciation of Julia’s ability to work in a confined space…even as her imagination was never trapped by her surroundings. This kitchen was scaled at 14x 20 feet, hardly the dimensions of today’s industrial-sized kitchen monstrosities of television chefs. Compare Julia’s workspace to Rihanna’s kitchen.
According to the Smithsonian, the maple counters in this Kennedy-Era kitchen were raised two inches from standard kitchen design to accommodate Julia’s 6’2” frame. You won’t find elegant trappings—like formal curtains—anywhere. At the same time, the kitchen was built with utility in mind, with an oven spacious enough to house two, 25-pound Thanksgiving turkeys.
Child of patriotism
Before her fame, Julia worked for the Office of Strategic Services, the first incarnation of what is today’s Central Intelligence Agency. Posing as a typist, she gathered intelligence during WWII in Ceylon, today’s Sri Lanka. During her spy days, she met her future husband Paul Child, the man who would go on to design her 1961 kitchen.
Now you know!