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A you know, I collect all kinds of cookbooks. A while back I shared some books inspired by literature; today I'll talk about some inspired by the arts.
You might not know that Impressionist painter Claude Monet was as particular about his food as he was about his painting. Monet's days in Giverny had a rhythm: up at dawn to paint and draw, luncheon at 11:30, and then back to work until the sunlight faded.
Monet's gardens and paintings reflect his love of food and drink: from formal meals served on beautiful blue, white, and yellow china to picnics served from baskets on a cloth spread under the trees. I find it fascinating that Monet kept notes on his culinary adventures, including recipes from his own home and comments about meals he ate in the city and recipes received from friends.
Claire Joyes's Monet's Table (Simon & Schuster, 1989) is based on Monet's handwritten cooking journals. Chef de Cuisine Joel Robuchon tested and adapted each recipe that appears in the cookbook to make sure that modern cooks will be able to successfully reproduce the dishes. When you look at the vast variety of recipes, from simple to elegant, it's hard to remember how different Monet's late-nineteenth-century kitchen was from ours.
The book is filled with beautiful photographs of Giverny (inside and out), Monet's original journals, some of the finished dishes, and--of course--his paintings. The text is as interesting as the recipes, and the intimacy of the book should be of little surprise when one realizes that Joyes is married to one of Monet's descendants and lives at Giverny.
Ballet dancers Heather Watts and Jock Soto are well-known for two things: dance and food. Huh? Like me, you probably thought that all professional dancers pretty much shunned food. Not so for this couple. In fact, their culinary talents are so well known, they've been asked to host meals for the famous, like Charles Kuralt.
Each chapter and menu is introduced by a personal statement from Heather and/or Jock, and there we learn a bit about the hectic schedule of a professional dancer and that even seasoned cooks can feel frazzled before the guests arrive.
The recipes range from fancy holiday meals of poached salmon and stuffed goose to simple meals with family friends consisting of garlic bread and lasagna. Our Meals: Making a Home for Family and Friends (Riverhead Books, 1991) makes for good reading and good cooking.
In the late 1970s Margaret Wood worked as painter Georgia O'Keeffe's companion. Wood was just twenty-four years old when she met the elderly O'Keeffe. One of the first things Wood learned about life with the artist was about food: the kitchen, the gardens, the meals. O'Keeffe believed in buying organic and especially in eating what she could grow in her own garden or find locally.
O'Keeffe encouraged a simple life, and her dining table reflected her philosophy. Foods were fresh, clean, simply served, and beautifully presented. Wood introduces each chapter and recipe in A Painter's Kitchen (Red Crane Books, 1991) with a story about the artist or the garden or about a particular ingredient. While the text is fascinating (and it is!), the recipes are even more attractive: all are appealing and very doable. Nothing too fancy here; Wood shares soups, salads, and breads, easy baked chicken, and Southwest favorites.
There are a few black and white photographs of O'Keeffe and her house and some color photographs of the completed dishes. There are plenty of recipes for vegetarians, but O'Keeffe did not shun meat.
I know I have other such cookbooks on my shelves. Do you?