|Visitors to the Smithsonian's National Museum of|
American History can see Julia Child's reassembled kitchen from her
"Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000" is a new ongoing exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History that chronicles the nation's trends and concerns surrounding food during a 50-year period of great social, political, and economic changes. While it is only one part of the exhibit, Julia's kitchen is truly the main draw of "Food," as is the TV monitor that continuously plays snippets of her shows on PBS. One of the more poignant sights of my trip was a lone woman who sat glued to this monitor the whole time I was viewing the exhibit, as if channeling a simpler time when people were entertained by watching a comical but confident Everywoman bone a chicken.
|One of Julia Child's legion of fans |
enjoys a nostalgic moment at the Smithsonian's
|Julia Child's famous pegboard storage for an array of pots, |
pans, and baking vessels. She outlined the shape of each
piece on the wall, so that there was a place for everything
and everything in its place.
Julia's kitchen at the Smithsonian appears surprisingly - or not surprisingly - almost shabby in the dark "Food' galleries. The counters, which were built to accommodate her statuesque proportions, are tidy and uncluttered. The sense of order is echoed in the astounding array of pots, pans, and gadgets that hang from pegboard on her signature green walls. There is even one of those coated wire drainboards that every home had back in the day, next to the kitchen sink. Next to a jar of Sue Bee honey and a row of turquoise metal canisters is Julia's ubiquitous jar of Skippy peanut butter. She is reported to have loved the stuff, as well as Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers.
|Julia Child's outsized whisk and copper|
bowl were used to demonstrate how to
make omelettes on the first-ever
episode of "The French Chef" in 1963.
But back to the "Food" exhibit - and the issue of hunger. Among the news clips and magazine articles featured across from Julia's kitchen was a black-and-white photo piece on hunger from an old magazine. Next to that was a colorful illustration on the cover of Life that depicted a healthy, well-fed toddler riding in a shopping cart as his mother's gloved hand continued to fill the overflowing conveyance.
We waste a shameful amount of food in this country. And we talk about feeding the developing world while fellow Americans starve in the streets, in schools, and at home.
That weekend, I visited Dupont Circle, lured by the legendary Kramerbooks and the adjacent Afterwords Cafe. It was one of those early spring afternoons where the weather goes from sunny and pleasant to sunny with an icy wind. The scene reminded me of the Abbott Kinney neighborhood in Venice, which is posh in a sort of rundown way. Sadly, the area also has a homeless contingent that belies an unpalatable truth about our society in upscale urban areas, where people spend extraordinary amounts of money on simple things like omelets and tee shirts, while other human beings live, sleep, deal with disease and yes, sometimes eat, on the same sidewalks.
|Brunch at Afterwords Cafe.|
I decided that I would give my leftovers to one of them when I left the restaurant. The amount of food I had left was as daunting as the generous portion that I initially received. There were enough eggs, potatoes, and bacon remaining for two or three small portions. I pictured the people I didn't give food to being angry or hurt. I considered leaving the leftovers on the table to avoid that.
|Desserts glow in Thiebaud-esque perfection at the |
Newseum's cafe, which is aptly named,
"The Food Section."
The haunting image depicts an emaciated child that appears near collapse on the parched ground, with a vulture practically a foot away from her. Although the authenticity of the photo is in question - the girl's parents are reported to have left her for a moment while receiving food from a UN plane distributing aid - it is a stark view of what was happening throughout the beleaguered region. Carter had also witnessed other life-altering sights such as gruesome public executions during the era of apartheid in South Africa. In the end, it was all too much for him and he committed suicide a year after taking his Pulitzer-winning image.
|The 9/11 exhibit at the Newseum pays tribute to the press|
that told the story of one of America's darkest days
I am struck by the issues that Lou and his staff faced each week, issues that resonate today within the profession, along with journalism ethics that seem to be a thing of the past these days, given the 27/7 news cycle. It is no longer just about scooping the rival news outlet, but about inundating the universe with your own merciless repetition of a top story. In the end, the quality of the work suffers, and the public is no better informed than it was before.
|Another thing that has gone the way of the|
dinosaur in favor of the "delete"
button. Claes Oldenburg and Coosje
Van Bruggen's "Typewriter Eraser,
Scale X," in the gardens at the
National Gallery of Art.
Journalists are said to enter the profession in order to make sense of the world, but they are also only human beings, with all the prejudices, fears, and egos that everyone else has.
In the end, the food server at Afterwords put my leftover breakfast in one large takeout box. I walked out of the cafe and handed it to the first person I saw, a woman who was sitting near the restaurant's door. I couldn't use my second day of admission to the Newseum, and ended up giving it to the cab driver that took me to the airport, a man who had a master's degree in political science from his native Ethiopia.
Many weeks later, I covered a commencement ceremony for a high school in LA's Koreatown. One of the graduates expressed in a speech his gratitude for things like terrible food in the school's cafeteria, the ability to share his own small resources with a homeless person, and for his family, friends, and the opportunity to learn.
As has happened many times over the years, I had another of those moments that makes me glad I do what I do for a living. If only Kevin Carter and his contemporaries in The Bang Bang Club had been able to witness a few more of these kinds of moments of humanity - difficult to do when documenting the bloody scourge of apartheid in the 1980s. Perhaps we'd be able to hear his firsthand stories today, and perhaps his tragically blighted views of the world, which led to suicide at age 33, would have been somehow salvaged.
|One of the pithy quotes that adorn the walls of the|
Newseum. This one kind of says it all.