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AMERICAN MOSAIC - December 13, 2002: Julia Child's Kitchen / Music by Nirvana / Question from China About Superstitions - 2002-12-12



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


This is Steve Ember. On our program today:

We play some music by the rock group Nirvana ...

Answer a listener’s question about superstitions ...

And report about a famous kitchen in a museum in Washington, D.C.

Julia Child’s Kitchen


People who love to cook are enjoying a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The exhibit shows the cooking center, or kitchen, of Julia Child, one of America’s most famous cooks. Shep O’Neal tells us more.


Julia Child entered the cooking profession after World War Two. She took a six-month training class at the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, France. Then, in nineteen-fifty-one, she and two friends started a private cooking school in Julia’s own kitchen. The three teachers later wrote a cookbook called “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” The way Julia Child wrote showed Americans more than just how to cook French food. She also taught readers how to re-create the food.

Julia Child became known to millions of Americans when she started her television program “The French Chef” almost forty years ago. During each program, Mizz Child explained simple cooking skills and methods. She also showed how to prepare special foods that were later included in many of her thirteen published cookbooks. “The French Chef” was America’s first television cooking show. It was broadcast for more than thirty-five years.

Mizz Child is now ninety years old. She recently moved from the eastern state of Massachusetts to her home state of California. Before retiring, Mizz Child gave her famous kitchen to the National Museum of American History. This room was the main place where her television shows were recorded.

Julia Child’s husband Paul designed the kitchen in nineteen-sixty-one. He wanted the room to be a useful area where two or three cooks could work together. Also, because Mizz Child is very tall, many of her cooking tools and equipment hung on boards from the floor to the top of the room. She could easily reach everything she needed.

Visitors to the American History Museum in Washington can see exactly how Mizz Child’s kitchen was organized. They can see more than one-thousand of her cooking tools. They can also enjoy watching a video of her cooking shows. The exhibit will be open through February, two-thousand-four.



Our VOA listener question this week comes from China. Zhou Fan asks about superstitions.

That is a good question to answer today, on Friday the Thirteenth. Many people believe it is a very unlucky day. They believe bad things happen on Friday the Thirteenth. There is no good reason for them to feel that way. Their belief is not based on fact. It is a superstition.

History experts say superstitions have existed in many different times and places. Many people believed some methods would bring good luck, tell the future and heal or prevent sickness and accidents. Today, many people say they do not believe in bad luck. But they are extra careful on Friday the Thirteenth.

Why? Because Friday the Thirteenth mixes two of the strongest superstitions -- the day Friday and the number thirteen.

Some say these superstitions began because Jesus was killed on a Friday and ate his last meal with twelve other people. Others tell about an old Scandinavian story of twelve gods who were invited to dinner. Thirteen came. One of the thirteen was killed. So, if you are superstitious, you do not eat at a table with twelve other people. Superstition says the first or the last person to leave the table will die within a year.

Americans do not often say that they believe in things like bad luck or that they fear the number thirteen. But there is evidence that they do. For example, there is no thirteenth floor in most American buildings. And there is no gate number thirteen at many American airports. The numbers go from twelve to fourteen.

There are many popular superstitions. One says that spilling salt means that you will soon get sick. Another superstition says that breaking a mirror will bring seven years of bad luck. Some people believe it is bad luck to walk under a ladder or permit a black cat to cross your path.

Many superstitions concern cats that are black or any other color. In ancient times, people believed that witches turned themselves into black cats. So the animals were considered to be evil. However, some cats were thought to bring good luck, especially to men who worked at sea. That is why cats were often kept on ships to bring the voyage good luck.



The band Nirvana released a new album in late October. It includes one song never heard publicly before. Mary Tillotson tells about the new album and about the band.


The band Nirvana now is drummer Dave Grohl and bass guitarist Krist Novoselic. The band’s lead singer and lead guitar player Kurt Cobain died in nineteen-ninety-four. Cobain shot himself at his home in Seattle, Washington.

Kurt Cobain wrote most of Nirvana’s songs. However, all three members of the band wrote this huge hit song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”


Nirvana was formed in the late nineteen-eighties. Music critics say the group was responsible for making popular a kind of music called “grunge.” The sound is rough. The songs are about mostly serious subjects. The music was not like most songs on popular radio at the time. Here Kurt Cobain sings “Sliver” about a child whose parents will no longer care for him.


Nirvana recorded its last song about a month before Cobain died. His wife, musician Courtney Love, sought legal action to block its release. She said she should control the recording because her husband wrote the song. The legal action was settled recently, and the song became part of Nirvana’s new album. We leave you now with that song, “You Know You’re Right.”



This is Steve Ember. I hope you enjoyed our program today. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC -- VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Jill Moss, Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver. Our studio engineer was Glen Matlock. And our producer was Paul Thompson.