A trip downtown to the the National Museum of American History to view Julia Child’s kitchen proved to be a delightful outing for the culinary devotees in my family on New Year’s weekend.
If you have seen the film Julie & Julia then you already know that the Smithsonian Museum received the original kitchen and all its contents from her Cambridge, MA house from the grand Julia as a gift in 2001, when she was moving back home to her native California. Stuffed with Julia memorabilia along with the actual kitchen (yes, the real kitchen, not a model) a visit is such fun!
I especially savored her bookshelf, which ranges far beyond the expected cookbooks to field guides, world history, “How to Clean Everything”, and Bulfinche’s Mythology. I can picture her leaping up from dinner conversation to consult one of these for a salient point, can’t you?
Click here for a link to the exhibit website, which includes an item-by-item tour of some of her fascinating batterie de cuisine.
Bon appétit and bonne année!
Two of my favorite things in life are good food and good books. A delicious novel about food? Now we’re talking.
Nicole Mones’ The Last Chinese Chef (Houghton Mifflin, 20087) is a love story about a recently widowed food writer who visits Beijing to settle a mysterious claim against her late husband’s estate. While in China, she works on a magazine profile of a rising young chef, whose ancestors include chefs dating back to the imperial palace.
Interwoven with the contemporary narrative are excerpts from the book of the same name published in 1925 by the young chef’s grandfather, himself a legendary chef. The book-within-the-book includes some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read about food and culture.
Apprentices have asked me, what is the most exalted peak of cuisine? Is it the freshest of ingredients, the most complex of flavors? Is it the rustic or the rare? It is none of these. The peak is neither eating nor cooking, but the giving and sharing of food. Great food should never be taken alone. What pleasure can a man take in fine cuisine unless he invites cherished friends, counts the days until the banquet, and composes an anticipatory poem for his letter of invitation?
~ Liang Wei, The Last Chinese Chef, published Peking 1925
A book to savor. And one of many delectable selections we’ll have in our Food As Medicine bookstore next month. All year we search for the very best of clinical nutrition, culinary books and food-related literature for our attendees. Our bookstore is a treasure trove.
Thank you for this gift, Rebecca!
How do you feed a city? It’s one of the great questions of our time. Yet it’s one that’s rarely asked. We take it for granted that if we go into a shop or restaurant… there’s going to be food there waiting for us, having magically come from somewhere.
But when you think that every day for a city the size of London, enough food has to be produced, transported, bought and sold, cooked, eaten, disposed of, and that something similar has to happen every day for every city on earth, it’s remarkable that cities get fed at all.
Thus begins Carolyn Steel’s excellent TED talk, “How Food Shapes Our Cities”. Steele is a London-born architect who’s chief interest is in exploring the inner lives of cities. In her new book Hungry City and in this talk, she explores how cities were formed at approximately the same time as the agriculture that made them possible, and that they were shaped around the food being transported into them.
How did Rome feed its million citizens?
Basically, Rome had access to the sea, which made it possible for it to import food from a very long way away… So Rome effectively waged war on places like Carthage and Egypt just to get its paws on their grain reserves. And, in fact, you could say that the expansion of the Empire was really sort of one long, drawn out militarized shopping spree…
London has it’s Bread Street, where grain came in from the Thames in the 17th century, and Fish Street, where the daily catch was traded in the open air. Boston has it’s Milk Street, one of the earliest and oldest streets in the heart of the old town (Benjamin Franklin was born at No. 1 Milk Street). Here in Washington, DC, farm markets are springing up and becoming the heart of neighborhoods all over the city. Back to the future? I like to think we are cultivating the best from the past.
Watch for part 2 on this fascinating talk.