18 June 2011

Weekend Cooking: Food and the Arts

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


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?


Carol @ There's Always Thyme to Cook 6/18/11, 7:13 AM  

What an interesting cookbook collection you have! I really should diversify my cookbook collection, these books sound amazing!

caite 6/18/11, 7:31 AM  

they all look interesting, but as a great fan of Monet I would really, really like to get my hands on that one.
Off to do a little search I guess....lol

Veens 6/18/11, 8:05 AM  

Very fascinating....I wouldn't have thought of the dancers being food lovers myself!

Karen Greenberg 6/18/11, 9:06 AM  

Those all sound really interesting. You have an incredible collection of cookbooks.

Thanks for the linky. I am linking up for the second time. I hope you have a great weekend!

Sheila (Bookjourney) 6/18/11, 9:21 AM  

My mom had every cookbook known to.... well, lets just say she had A LOT. :)
I like this one - and like that people who dance do enjoy food too!

Louise 6/18/11, 9:54 AM  

How interesting all three books sound- although the Monet book sounds absolutely intriguing to me. I've long loved Monet's artwork, I've been to many exhibitions of his work, made the pilgrimage to Giverney on my first trip to France, but I didn't know about his food habits. My husband has long admired Joel Robuchon- we have a couple of his books, his mashed potato and lamb roast are to die for.

BTW I didn't quite put the right link on my first one- it goes to the right page, but is labelled wrongly in your linky- sorry about that.

Zibilee 6/18/11, 10:15 AM  

The Monet cookbook sounds excellent and like something that I would really like to see. I wonder if it is available for a reasonable price anywhere? This was a great review that encapsulated several interesting looking books, and I thank you for sharing it with me!

Nan 6/18/11, 10:50 AM  

I loved reading about these cookbooks, and they are all appealing. Imagine Monet taking the time to do all that writing about his meals, etc. We think we are so busy now, and yet he, the great painter, had time to do this. Like O'Keefe, my life and cooking are quite simple. I think I would enjoy both these books. Thank you.

bermudaonion 6/18/11, 11:14 AM  

I love this! I would love to see A Painter's Kitchen - Georgia O'Keefe was fascinating on so many levels!

Margaret @ BooksPlease 6/18/11, 12:39 PM  

The Monet book is a must-have book for me - thanks for the info.

Anonymous,  6/18/11, 12:55 PM  

The Monet one sounds very interesting to me, as well as the O'Keefe one. I don't think I own any cookbook inspired by or about any particular artist.

Rikki 6/18/11, 12:56 PM  

Sorry, that was me, somehow I was a bit too quick...:)

Margot 6/18/11, 12:58 PM  

I always enjoy when you share some of the cookbooks from your shelves. These three are unique and were fun to read about.

Anonymous,  6/18/11, 3:06 PM  

I enjoy so much your Saturday meme, and I can't wait to read Monet's table! Thanks so much for your great finds.
I just finished a great novel about a dying food critic who tries to remember that amazing flavor he experienced one day. Fabulous book full of food descriptions that make you salivate. Written by the author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Those French, when they talk about FOOD...!
Emma @ Words And Peace

Heidenkind 6/18/11, 4:24 PM  

Oh my gosh, I love this post. I haven't seen Monet's Table, but it sounds like it could be interesting (I'm not a huge Monet fan). I'd also be very interested in reading about Georgia O'Keeffe's recipes. She was very inspired by Asian art and culture and I wonder if that's reflected in what she liked to eat at all.

I do have a Tasha Tudor cookbook. Tudor is a famous children's book illustrator, and I was named after her! She lived on a self-sustaining farm with no electricity and made everything from scratch.

There's also a TV show called Eating Art, which talks about famous art and its connections with cooking. There are a few episodes online; you should definitely check it out!

Joy Weese Moll 6/18/11, 9:10 PM  

Those all sound wonderful. I'd love the Monet one to read and it sounds like I would find things that suit my style of cooking in the O'Keefe one.

Esme 6/19/11, 12:14 AM  

Monet is my favorite author-I did not know this about him. Thank you.

Claire 6/19/11, 6:35 AM  

What an incredible collection of books. Monet book is in my must have books list, hopefully I 'll get one soon. Have a great weekend!

Debbie 6/19/11, 3:58 PM  

I have over 200 cookbooks....some are packed away....but I can't remember any this unique. I'll be on the lookout now! How fun.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 6/19/11, 9:41 PM  

"Monet's hand-written cooking journals"?!? Who knew?! I guess I thought that he was cooked FOR, not that he did any cooking himself. Seems there's a natural connection between visual/physical arts and culinary arts!

Robin M 6/23/11, 5:45 PM  

You are the only person I know who makes cookbooks sound so interesting and readable. Going to see if I can find Monet's Table.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti 6/23/11, 11:50 PM  

All three coobooks sound so interesting! I would definitely love to see Monet's Table and A Painter's Kitchen.

I'm joing in your event for the first time ..delighted to be here!

Heather 6/24/11, 4:36 PM  

What a joy it would be to spend time wandering through your cookbooks.

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