Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
New Ideas
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments Posted 08.26.09 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Alexandra Lange

Cooking for Crowds


I saw Julie & Julia last night, was duly charmed by Meryl Streep, wished for the first and perhaps only time that Stanley Tucci was my husband, agreed that Amy Adams could never play a bitch, and got very distracted by the lamps. Nora Ephron, or at least production designer Mark Ricker, must have spent a fortune on cute lamps, from the Artemide Tolomeo desk lamp on Julie’s desk, to the bullet-shape, paper-shaded bedside lamps in one of the Childs’ European bedrooms (I think it was Oslo, where their living room appropriately featured Scandinavian modern, a welcome change from all that French gilt). The Childs’ progress through Europe was rightfully accompanied by the changing styles of the postwar period, but I think Julie’s apartment was a bit overdone for L.I.C. Would a cubicle-dweller and an Archaeology magazine editor really have Anthropologie bedding, Fiestaware, and vintage Thonet chairs? I felt like the Le Creuset French oven (the one overlapping kitchen item from Julia to Julie) needed a footnote, “*purchased at T.J. Maxx in Texas.” Yes, we are used to ridiculous New York apartments in movies, but not when the whole point is that our heroine needs to rescue herself. Fishs Eddy hotelware would have been more like it.

Besides, all those lovely interiors distract from the real design revolution Julia Child engineered. While she was making French recipes more scientific and more accessible (i.e. more American) she was also democratizing the way we cook and the way we entertain, with a little help from her Cambridge community. In the early days of The French Chef, Julia Child (via her husband Paul) met up with Benjamin Thompson, architect, designer, and creator of Design Research Inc., one of the first modern design stores in the United States. He and his staff provided pots, pans, platters, plates and graphic textiles for Julia’s television kitchen and dining room, restocking the set each Tuesday with the latest European imports. Julia also told him what to buy for the store, which soon started selling copper pans and garlic presses, Peugeot pepper mills and French knives. New food required new equipment and that equipment suggested more casual ways of entertaining. Ceramic pots pretty enough to go from oven to table were part of her patter. In the servantless home, who wanted to replate every dish? I doubt the French would have suggested an omelette party, with a camp stove and fixings set up in the living room (I can’t find the clip on YouTube, but it was recently shown on WLIW).

In the movie, Julia’s plates are far more pedestrian than those lamps, and we only see her entertaining in a rather formal, if whimsical, manner in Paris. Marimekko didn’t enter her life until 1961, when she moved to Cambridge, Mass. In my Cambridge childhood I passed by Julia’s house all the time, as it was near my father’s office at the Center for European Studies. The woman who cooked for CES, Merry White, published a cookbook with same title as this entry, which served as my mother’s Bible — more ethnic, more stews, more 1970s than Mastering.

I know this because I am co-author with Jane Thompson, Ben Thompson’s widow, an urban planner and former editor of I.D. Magazine, of the forthcoming D/R: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes (Chronicle, 2010). In the book, there is an oral history of Julia and D/R, and I only wish the book were out now to join in the Julia renewal.

|
Share This Story

Comments

Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
Read Complete Comments Policy >>


Name             

Email address 




Please type the text shown in the graphic.


|
Share This Story



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect's Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Alexandra Lange

Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

Design Research
Chronicle Books, 2010

More books by contributors >>

RELATED POSTS


Lucia Eames, 1930-2014
An appreciation of Lucia Eames (1930-2014).

The Filmic Page: Chris Marker's Commentaires
The French director Chris Marker’s book Commentaires is as innovative as book design as his documentaries are as films.

Horror Movie Posters
Accidental Mysteries for November 3, 2012 highlights vintage horror movie posters.

From the Archive: Brian Eno, Artist of Light
An early profile of ambient musician and producer Brian Eno’s parallel career as a visual artist.

An Archive of Czech Film Posters
Accidental Mysteries for June 30, 2013 showcases an archive of Czech film posters.