Siting Julia

Julia Child at La Pitchoune, Julia Child

(Image of Julia Child seated outdoors on wall at La Pitchoune with Simca Beck, Charles Child, Paul’s twin, Jean Fischbacher and others, taken by Paul Child)

The Schlesinger Library’s exhibit Siting Julia, running in conjunction with their symposium on Julia, is installed and open to the public until March 22. As the title suggests, the exhibition is broken into the three main sites of Julia’s life: WWII Paris, Cambridge, M.A., and national television.

The Food Literacy Project just hosted a tour to the Schlesinger Library. Marylène Altieri, the curator of books and printed materials at the Schlesinger, led us through the collection and followed up with books in Julia’s legacy. She’s been swamped with requests for tours and understandably so — not only is Julia Child a giant in the history of American cooking, but she also left an amazing paper trail of notes, pen-stained proofs, wonderful photographs. After visiting the exhibit, you are left with a strong impression of how dedicated Julia was to her home cooks; she received their telephone calls, coached them through books of their own, agonized over their complaints, and went to every length possible to make sure their pie crusts would be flaky and not flat (even with that inferior American flour!).

Julia’s materials are well documented on the web. If you don’t have a chance to get to the exhibit, the whole September symposium is online. If you’d prefer to pore over Paul Child’s excellent photographs of their travels and the set of The French Chef, there is a curated emphera on the Schlesinger Library and a more expansive documentation on Harvard’s Visual Information Archive, open to the public.

Oh, also — just to speak a word for the Schlesinger Library for a moment — they’ve got the definitive collection on women in the United States, including a wonderful culinary collection that includes the papers of MFK Fisher, Elizabeth David, and Julia Child and reaches into contemporary cookbooks like Modernist Cuisine. Well worth the visit!

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