What do you get when you mix a trendy (once upon a time) yellow and chrome dinette, sleek-fronted white cabinets, your grandmother’s canister set, and gaudy, what-were-they-thinking wallpaper? It was simultaneously a kitchen and a Sparkling Sixties time capsule.
But the restaurant-grade stove had produced dinners for visiting heads of state, celebrities, and the family of the President of the United States.
The dozen or so folks in our tour group at LBJ’s Texas White House ambled about thoughtfully, intent on the sights and insights offered by our guide. Someone pointed out the pie on the stovetop.
Yes, our guide confirmed, it was pecan. Background: President and Mrs. Kennedy were slated to visit the LBJ ranch following the visit to Dallas and event in Austin on November 22, 1963. Mrs. Davis, the Johnsons’ cook, told that Jackie Kennedy had never tasted pecan pie, baked one for the occasion. As she removed it from the oven, the news bulletin flashed from Dallas. Staff and Secret Service men huddled together following the tragic proceedings via the small TV atop the fridge. The kitchen’s clock registers 1:00 P.M.
The room fell silent we gazed at two unremarkable items–one on the wall and one in a pie tin–elevated from objects to icons because now they tell a story.
Along with the host of recent JFK publications, I’ve been especially attentive to new sources of iconic imagery this week. These all demonstrate wonderful visual shorthand:
Earth: The Definitive Visual Guide (2nd edition) DK Publishing, known for excellent graphics, collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution for this gorgeous volume. Science, geography, and history are so compellingly depicted that even those not usually drawn to these subjects should find this hefty tome a page-turner.
The Civil War in 50 Objects by Harold Holzer. For the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Holzer (Kirkus Reviews terms him “a modern dean of Civil War studies”) selected fifty artifacts incisively reflecting the forces leading up to the war, the battles, and the aftermath. Quotations, anecdotes, and narrative accompany each photo; great for history and Civil War buffs.
ARKive. Judged “an awe-inspiring record of life on Earth” by Scout Report, this site features vibrant visuals and data on over 15,000 species, with content for educators and children.
Moments That Made the Movies by David Thomson. This one just came in; I’m not so patiently waiting for it to be processed. The title says it all; Publishers Weekly calls it “eminently browseable”.
Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972-1990 by Nathan Benn. It’s still on order, but we’re in for a treat. Wall Street Journal judges the images produced by the former National Geographic photographer “both timeless and particular”.
Life in Color: National Geographic Photographs. This stunning collection reminds us that color produces its own emotional climate. In the foreword, Jonathan Adler cautions readers to “prepare for sensory overload.” You’ll see why.
Wouldn’t these selections make marvelous holiday gifts?
During December, you’ll see these and other present-worthy publications featured on the second floor book tower.