Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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August 15, 2012

Julia Child's kitchen returns for her 100th birthday

It was a party they didn't want to miss, and a deadline they knew they had to make: Aug. 15, on what would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday.

The very Smithsonian curators who had negotiated with the 89-year-old icon in her Cambridge, Mass., kitchen in 2001, catalogued the room's contents, packed them up and created one of the National Museum of American History's most beloved exhibits, only to disassemble it a decade later for the sake of infrastructure improvement, are reopening the kitchen at its new site, where the museum's Hall of Agriculture used to be.

And they've got some surprise fun of their own planned for the public at 1 p.m. on the big day. Butter and music will be involved.

"We just had to make the 100th," says Rayna Green, one of the original team motivated to aim big 11 years ago. Museumgoers "have been begging us since the exhibit closed in early January," she says.

Those who have committed to memory the peg boards and lorgnette and tableware-filled firkins through repeated visits or online via www.americanhistory.si.edu/kitchen will be pleased to press their noses up against a set of windows whose blinds were previously drawn. Keen eyes can now decipher Child's handwritten label on the coffeemaker and assess the physics of a countertop stone-crab claw cracker that looks like it belongs beside an architect's drawing board.

The setting is ultra-real yet reverential. In this ordinary space, an extraordinary woman changed the way Americans ate. Three of her cooking shows were televised in it, amid the utensils, objects and art that made her happy. Where's the appeal in a soulless, sleek cooking environment with everything tucked out of sight? This exhibit makes you wonder, and the curators say it prompts strangers to share stories with one another as they explore.

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