FLORINE STETTHEIMER: Artist Kitchens (Jazz Age)

"Family Portrait II" 1933 (L-R: Florine paints, Ettie reads, Rosetta plays cards, and Carrie smokes).

They like a woman
To have a mind
they are of greater interest
they find
They are not very young
women of that
kind.


FLORINE STETTHEIMER

Florine Stettheimer was FABULOUS. Unabashedly fabulous! A striking, major figure in American modern art that you’ve probably never heard of. (I hadn’t).

Poet. Painter. Salonista extraordinaire. Purposefully unmarried. Intentionally beautiful. Vibrant. Female. Florine reveled in her carefully crafted, eccentric and very extravagant lifestyle — the glittering world of Manhattan’s elite. A realm she savored but incisively observed as irreverent poet and artist. Catching the rich layers of 1900s New York with an eye for all things beautiful BUT cutting a sharply acerbic wit.

For she suffered no fools.

I like slippers gold
I like oysters cold
and my garden with mixed flowers
and the sky full of towers.

Florine was born August 1871 into a wealthy German-American Jewish banking family. Her father (Joseph) soon deserted the family but Rosetta (mother) held her own fortune. Thus she and three daughters (Carrie, Ettie, and Florine) moved to Europe for the daughters’ arts education. Living between Paris, Munich, Italy, and Berlin before returning home to America at the onset of World War I.  The Alwyn Court — a pinnacle of Art Deco modernism on W 58th Street — would be home for the rest of their lives. Remaining decidedly unmarried and adhering to the adage that “fully realized” women do not distract themselves with romantic love or children.

Florine Stehttheimer’s studio in New York’s Beaux Arts Building. Notice her many paintings? She NEVER sold any of her work. Sharing only on private occasion. After her death, Florine wished all to be burned. Ettie, her sister, ignored the request and invited top American museums to instead choose for their permanent collections.

“Distraction” free, Ettie earned a PhD in Philosophy and published two novels under the pen name “Henry Waste.” Carrie assumed domestic management once back in America. While Florine wrote poetry and privately painted some of our country’s greatest modern works. The Stettheimers also hosted some of New York’s most famous cultural Salons — and, Marcel Duchamp’s legendary 30th birthday party.  Unique at the time, these women were independent, financially secure, private, and FULLY empowered.

The Stettheimer women witnessed a time of great change in New York, not least of which was the skyline.  Optimism bloomed as industry changed landscapes. Giving rise to urban culture and a general faith in human progress. Upper and middle classes embraced a love for Beautiful Things — craving luxury and opulence after the austerity of World War I. Almost a frenzy to sparkle with diamonds, live in “stylishly appointed” rooms, and eat and drink the finest. Florine’s spellbinding paintings capture this new pulse in wealthy Manhattan. Revered by elite taste makers as she deftly celebrated, paid tribute to, and was yet equally critical of high society, luxury, and institutions. Boldly colored, inventively composed, Florine’s visionary work shows modern, rich, avant garde society witnessing the dawn of “New York-ness” and painting it with graceful, chic satire and humor.

“Asbury Park” (1920) Florine paints her white family and friends into a joyful scene on a segregated beach pulsing to the rhythms of Jazz, beautiful color, and racism.

The fact she literally refused to ever sell her work was also unusual. Insisting she didn’t want her art “to end up in the bedroom of some man!” Instead, she hosted dynamic peers for private “Birthday Parties” for each new painting in her studio. As central intellectual aesthetes in Jazz Age New York, Florine and Ettie especially enjoyed close friendships with luminaries like Duchamp, Alfred Stieglitz, E. Steichen, Carl von Vechten (Music critic & Jazz lover), Gertrude Stein, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Florine did allow the Whitney or Museum of Modern Art to show her work publicly. For she shunned press, pursuing Art purely in a singular style all her own: ethereal, fiercely feminist, luxuriously delicate…and shredding racist, imperial, sexist themes in her details.

Century old critics incorrectly panned her work as “decorative” but buried in her sparkling finery, flowers, skyscrapers, and lacy interiors lurk some of the most subversive imagery in 20th century art.  Gender bending silhouettes, Surrealist sensuality, self nudes (a first!), social parody, and cutting commentary on the follies of human character. Leading her work (and personality) to be admired but left unknown to the public.  And as her style was so unique, she fell through the cracks. Where she sort of remains today.

An Artist’s Artist. And Cult Heroine.

“Spring Sale at Bendels” (1921) shows an almost hysterical riot of shoppers struggling to buy beauty from a department store.

 

As a wealthy Manhattan woman, Florine likely did NOT Cook.  Upper class homes hired domestic staff for cooking and cleaning. That said, wealthy homes in the 1920s and 1930s would similarly cook dishes that showcased one’s wealth. Before the rise of early refrigerators, dishes like Aspic, Deviled Eggs, Salmon Mousse, Jello Molds, even Crudites showed your kitchen was equipped with an expensive Cold Room. Champagne cocktails, Gin Fizz, Claret, Mint Juleps, even Lemonade demonstrated access to fine alcohol and citrus garnish during Prohibition. The phallic “Candle Salad” at holidays was all the rage — literally an upright banana nestled in a yellow ring of canned Dole pineapple with a maraschino cherry on top — practically screamed “we can afford fresh produce in winter!” When the more affordable “Frigidaire” launched 1925, middle class homes joined the party and these dishes? Fell somewhat out of favor.

1920s advertisements in Ladies magazines shared recipes using new, read-made foods available thanks to advancements in canning and curing. Dole, Kraft, Miracle Whip, and Heinz brands joined an increasingly full market place. Historians credit the rise of condiments to the large influx of Immigrants in the early 20th century.

Data from 1920s show women spent 44 hours per week cooking meals. Thanks to technology (i.e. refrigeration and canning), upper and middle class Americans now had new fresh and ready-made food options. Vitamins and the concept of dietary health benefits lead to diverse diets. Between 1920-1929, consumption of carrots increased x7, lettuce x4, and green beans x6.5! Fresh O.J. and tomato juice became available year-round while processed foods, gas stoves, and the “Frigedaire” (1925) modernized many American kitchens forever.

One fascinating part in this era of food history, is that while wealthy homes still trended towards more lavish, traditional European dishes (such as Florine’s steamed lobster picnic below), Manhattan’s upper crust hotels and restaurants certainly capitalized on these new foodstuffs and cold storage technologies. Creating new menu items that were cutting edge in 1920s/30s but later? Trickled down into more middle class bistro, diner, and cafeteria fare. Long distance trucking, cold cars, and the invention of those big, almost walk-in refrigerators allowed high-end commercial kitchens to hold (and sell) fresh greens (a novelty!) all year round. And crisp, chilled SALADS became hugely popular. Especially among New York’s wealthiest women lunching on “diet fare.”

“Picnic at Bedford Hills” 1918

Here are the original Jazz Age era recipes for the what was then, brand new Salads —  Chef’s Salad, Chicken Salad(s), Waldorf Salad, Chinese Chicken Salad, and the original French Dressing. I am also including Bob Cobb’s original Brown Derby Cobb Salad as well since New York quickly copied the Los Angeles icon.

POSTSCRIPT: ChristineCarlson from What Do You Crave delighted in Florine so much that she created a new cocktail in her honor! The “Nouvelle Femme!” recipe is below.

Enjoy!

 

CHEF’S SALAD

Original “diet fare” from (likely) Louis Diat, Chef of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel with roots in the 1930s English American immigrant community in New York.

A published 1941 recipe is clearest, “In a bowl, place equal amounts chopped lettuce (place in bottom of the bowl), boiled chicken, smoked ox tongue, and smoked ham, all cut in julienne style. Add 1/2 hard-cooked egg for each portion, Place some watercress in the center and serve with French Dressing.”

(I’d skip the ox tongue…)

A bit different is this 1936 recipe from the Joy of Cooking (2nd printing), Irma Rombauer called “Chef Salad:”

  • Rub a salad bowl with: Garlic
  • Place in it tender lettuce leaves
  • Add to them anchovies, pitted ripe olives, sliced radishes, peeled and quartered tomatoes, sliced hard-cooked eggs, shredded Swiss cheese
  • Peel, slice and add: 3 hard-cooked eggs
  • Drain and chop: 6 or 8 anchovies
  • Peel, slice and add: 2 tomatoes
  • Moisten the salad with French Dressing
  • Toss it in the bowl. Serve at once.

A published 1937 Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook Chef’s Salad Recipe skips the cheese but adds chopped celery, endive, and watercress.

That said, iconic Los Angeles Brown Derby restaurant developed a “Derby Chef Salad” in the late 1920s, some 11 years earlier than the New York Ritz. The Derby Chef was originally a light starter plate but by late 1930s and 40s, saw the salad take on heavier and fancier ingredients.  In general though, the Derby Chef was a light tossed salad made from chopped iceberg lettuce, hard boiled egg, tomato and roquefort dressing. Menu deviations saw guest appearances from sliced radish, garlic, chicory, Swiss cheese, fresh parsley, bacon, anchovies, and lemon.

 

Duche
A Silver-tin thin spiral
Revolving from Cool twilight
To as far as pink dawn
A steely negation of lightning
That strikes
A solid lamb-wool mountain
Reared into the hot night
And ended the spinning spiral’s
Love flight —
Portrait of Marcel Duchamp and Rrose Selavy (his femme alter ego) 1923

 

CHICKEN SALAD is first seen in German American recipes in 1845 and then again in 1865 (with an option to swap in turkey).  Early Germanic cooks saw this protein packed salad as a primary meal, not repurposing leftovers. In the 1920s, twists on high-end chicken salad pop up with additions of chopped olives, green celery leaves, lemon juice, and cucumber pickles.

This 1930 recipe lists the “Old Way Of Making It:”

  • 2 large chickens, boiled
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 4 uncooked egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoonfuls lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoonful cayenne pepper
  • 6 stalks celery
  • 2 teaspoonfuls mustard
  • 1 teaspoonful salt
  • 4 tablespoonfuls vinegar
  • 6 tablespoonfuls milk
  • 1 pint bottle olive oil
  • “Chop the chicken, white and dark meat, not too fine, being careful to remove every bit of skin and not to use the hard or gristly parts. Cut up the celery and chop hard-boiled eggs, salt and pepper to taste. Make a dressing of the rest of the ingredients by mixing the egg yolks, mustard, salt and pepper together until smooth and thick. Drop in the oil a little at a time, then add vinegar, lemon juice, and lastly, milk. Just before you are ready to serve mix all ingredients together and mix with the dressing.”

 

“Birthday Bouquet” (Flowers with Snake). 1932

CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD

Chinese ingredient and inspired ingredients became all the rage in big American cities starting in the early 1930s. But these salads were a far cry from what we think of as a Chinese Chicken Salad since raw salads were (& are) not traditional in Asia. Uncooked vegetables being considered dangerous and holding little appeal to most Chinese. Many early versions of this American concoction used par-boiled or stir fried ingredients and served hot or cold.

Cold Chicken salads, however, do have roots in Szechwan were “pong pong” chicken (or “bong bong”) is mixed with blanched bean sprouts and dressed in whisked peanut butter, red peppers, and garlic sauce. Food historians think THIS may the start to what became Americanized as the “Chinese Chicken Salad” (aka “Oriental Salad” or in San Francisco, “So See Chicken.” Early recipes seem to exclude soy based ingredients with high-end restaurants and hotels serving salads to fashionable Hollywood / Broadway diners made generally from chicken, iceberg lettuce, fried wontons, and a spicy, sesame oil dressing. (And sometimes, canned tangerine.)

For something akin to a Jello Mold, this charmer appeared in 1936 for household or potluck gatherings:

  • Chopped iceberg lettuce
  • crispy fried noodles
  • strips of roasted chicken (breast usually)
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 2 tablespoons gelatin (sic)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1&3/4 cup boiling chicken stock
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1&1/2 cups finely cut boiled chicken
  • Chili sauce
  • Horseradish
  • Whipped Cream
  • Salt to Taste
  • “Blanche the almonds, then place them in a hot oven until they are quite brown. Shred very fine. Soften the gelatine (sic) in cold water, add the boiling stock, and stir until gelatine (sic) is dissolved. Add the pineapple and strain through a meshed sieve. Add salt to taste and paprika. Arrange the chicken, pineapple, and almonds in a mold; add the chilled liquid and place in the coldest part of the refrigerator to set. Unfold on a large platter garnished with lettuce or chicory and serve with a dressing of whipped cream, to which a little chili or horseradish has been added. This makes eight to ten servings.”

 

“Self Nude” 1915 caused quite the scandal and is thought to be the first self portrait by an American woman artist. Florine hung her painting in the main room in her studio for all to see.

 

FRENCH DRESSING believe it or not is rooted as a 1300s popular digestive for raw vegetables and was mostly vinegar based until this big popularity of American style salads in the 20th century.  One of the earliest recipes for French Dressings (plural) is 1928 and based on COLOR:

  • Pink dressings were made with Heinz tomato ketchup and paprika (with some mustards).
  • Yellow French Dressing used lemon juice.
  • Orange French Dressing was a whisked blend of lemon and paprikas.

The tomato based, creamy French Dressing Americans know today stems from a 1928 Edgewater Beach Hotel Salad (Cook)Book by Arnold Shircliffe which used Heinz tomato ketchup as the base.

The Brown Derby in Los Angeles, however, was considered the final word on midcentury French Dressing. Publishing this recipe in 1949 after decades in use:

  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Juice 1/2 lemon
  • 2.5 tbs salt
  • 1 tbs black pepper
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • 1 garlic chopped
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups salad oil
  • Mix all ingredients well and chill in a 2 qt Mason Jar.

Other Salad Dressings in 1920s-1930s modern restaurants and kitchens include Thousand Island, Russian, and Ranch.  Bottled options from Kraft and Miracle Whip played pivotal table roles as early as 1915 and reigned supreme until Julia Child reintroduced vinaigrettes in the 1960s.

1930s Kraft advertisement with recipes.

 

COBB SALAD is thought to be the parent of all Chef Salads and is named for Bob Cobb, owner of that legend, the Brown Derby. Tired of LA’s “hot dog-hamburger- diet,” he experimented with an avocado in his icebox.  Chopping it up to toss with chopped lettuce, celery, tomato and a leftover piece of bacon for his dinner.  A few days later, he tried it again with some chicken breast, chives, watercress, hard boiled egg, and a wedge of roquefort cheese for dressing. And the salad legend was born!

 

THE NOUVELLE FEMME

Behold this beauty from Christine at What Do You Crave: the brand new Nouvelle Femme!
Femme (a take on the jazz age cocktail The White Lady)
2.0 oz vodka
.75 oz Cointreau
1 oz Lemon rosemary simple syrup (recipe follows)
1 egg white OR 1oz aqua faba
In a cocktail shaker combine all ingredients, muddle, and dry shake (no ice) very well.
Add in ice and shake again. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with fresh rosemary and lemon.
Simple Syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup water
3 springs rosemary
Combine ingredients in a small saucepan.
Simmer on low, stirring occasionally.
Strain into a heatproof jar and cool completely before using.

 

Family Portrait II (1933) Florine considered her masterpiece. Her “Life’s best work.” The Museum of Modern Art dearly wished to acquire this painting and only succeeded in 1956, some 12 years after her death.

Select Bibliography:

“Florine Stettheimer; Painting Poetry” from Stephen Brown & Georgiana Uhlyarik in conjunction with the Jewish Museum (New York), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), and Yale University Press (New Haven & London) JEWISH MUSEUM ART SHOW: Summer 2017

“A Case for the Greatness of Florine Stettheimer” by Roberta Smith, New York Times, May 18, 2017 (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/18/arts/design/a-case-for-the-greatness-of-florine-stettheimer.html)

“From the Archives; Florine Stehttheimer’s Rococo Subversive” by Linda Nochline, September 1, 1980 in Art in America Magazine (http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-features/magazine/from-the-archives-florine-stettheimer-rococo-subversive/)

“Crystal Flowers; Poems and a Libretto” by Florine Stettheimer (1923). Edited by Irene Gammel and Suzanne Zelazo (2010)

“How Florine Stettheimer Sabotaged Her Own Art Market” by Sarah Cascade on May 26, 2017, Artnet News (https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/florine-stettheimer-market-938318

National Women’s History Museum, “Women, Food & the Jazz Age” by Sydnee C. Winston (http://www.nwhm.org/blog/foodie-friday-women-food-the-jazz-age/)

“1920’s Food: Introduction to Processed Foods”, “1920s Art: The Age of Surrealism & Art Deco” from 1920s-1930s.com (http://www.1920-30.com)

“Art Deco — One of the Most Enduring Design Styles” by Petra Bjelica, May 9, 2017 for Walls With Stories (Wallswithstories.com)

Joy of Cooking, Irma Rombauer

Assorted Food History and Recipe Research thanks to Food Timeline (Foodtimeline.org)

“How Suffragists Used Cookbooks As A Recipe for Subversion” by Nina Martyris for NPR’s “The Salt,” November 5, 2015 (www.pr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/11/05/454246666/how-suffragists-used-cookbooks-as-a-recipe-for-subversion

The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s Sarah D Coffin and Stephen Harrison. Contributions from Emily M. Orr. Publication from Yale Univ. and the Cleveland Museum of Art (2017 Exhibition)

“The Flamboyant Feminism of Cult Artist Florine Stettheimer” by Alexxa Gotthardt, March 15, 2017 artsy.net

Celebrate with MONET

Author’s Note: Before we get to the Food, I want to thank Couleur Nature for sharing their incredibly lovely French tablelinens as backdrop for Monet’s Food. I remember seeing their tablecloths for the first time some 15 years ago. Before I could Cook, let alone make Cassoulet! I was “antiquing” with my grandmother, Mima, in Pasadena. (She loved “Good Design.”) There was a vendor selling beautiful old platters but I fell hard for the cheery, obviously well-made tablecloth beneath.  We went back and forth until finally I convinced her to sell me her tablecloth. I use it most weeks still. What I love about Couleur Nature is not just the daily beauty they bring to my kitchen, but the memory of my grandmother. Shopping with me in the sunshine… Mima died two years ago this Spring. And I think of her every time I unfurl that gorgeous cloth onto my kitchen table. It’s been a real honor working with Couleur Nature again on this article.

When I started writing about Artists & Food last year, I had no idea I’d find a real thread of similarity across history. First with Frida and her Recipes, Robert Townsend (L.A. based & awesome) and with Monet. Three Artists who could not be more different if they tried. But each one living a purposeful aesthetic. An intentional way of being. Of creating.

Life Lived Beautifully. And Intentionally… The Parlor at Giverny.

For Monet, the second half of Life was ripe with the celebrations and deliciousness denied him in the first half. Giverny provided important sanctuary. Space to grow as a newly blended family with Alice Hoschede, Monet’s second wife, after Camille sadly died from cancer. Giverny was an oasis of seemingly “wild” waves of color — vibrantly lush! — in every direction.  Lilac shadows and dappled sunlight. Fragrant, blooming flowers, tranquil pond, and VERY organized, kitchen garden. Not an inch wasted. Giverny was a carefully structured orchestra of year-round care, grounds maintenance, and painting schedules.

Alice & Claude Monet’s restored Kitchen. Alice died in 1911 and Blanche, her daughter, took over as mistress of Giverny. When Monet died in 1926, the house continued for family and dwindling chorus of artists and friends until WWI devoured Europe. September 1940, on the brink of WWII, Blanche “wrote to Count Matternich asking him to protect the house. An official notice was pinned to the door, stating “This is Monet’s House. Forbidden to the forces of occupation.” Blanche lasted until June the following year before closing Giverny. It’s said cook Marguerite handed over her apron here in this kichen, leaving sadly in a red truck. For it was over. And Giverny deserted.

Domestic harmony being paramount for Monet, mealtimes ran like clockwork: three multi-course meals cooked by Maguerite (from scratch) per day. Fresh cut flowers in every room. Alice at the helm intentionally crafting an elegant, creatively “Artsy” Lifestyle while simultaneously protecting now-famous Monet’s privacy… and satiating his hunger. Monet built three studios at Giverny and painted every morning and late afternoon, allowing only Alice in and later, Blanche, his stepdaughter. Alice would meal-plan the week ahead or embroider while Monet painted. I love that visual… Two people so in love with each other, food and art! With daily meals,  acts of seasonal celebration.

One of Monet’s many food paintings.  Monet painted abundant scenes in courtyards, parks, picnics, and sweet family moments through his entire career… even if early reality was cold, hungry, and impoverished.

For Monet reveled in the appetizing! Bragging that he “ate the weight of three men” per meal. Insisting on a beautiful table (even when times were lean). After reading countless pages these past eight months, surviving Giverny recipes boast early “Farm to Table” fare that had to be flavorful but never fussy.  Alice and Monet, both born upper middle class, understood that domestic beauty was vital but always appear effortless. Monet insisting on eating well in celebration of season, family, and finally, financial success as Artist.

Shellfish was a true delicacy. Giverny initially boasted no Ice Box, making safe storage of these beauties difficult! Shellfish served was always a cause for Celebration! Miyagi Oysters shown here on La Mer Tablecloth from Couleur Nature.

Out of all the recipes I’ve read, these are some of my favorites — partly because they are unfussy, delicious, and easily switched up. I want to share them with you and hope you make them too for your loved ones!

Celebrating each other as the Monet/Hoschedes so often did.

 

SMOKED SALMON SPREAD ON BAGUETTE WITH CHIVES & THYME

Smoked Salmon on Toasted Baguette. Dean snuck one before I started photographing and kept saying “oh these are good!” while I worked! Shown here on Couleur Nature’s stunning Scalloped Marble Platter, Cherry Blossom tablecloth, and Grasse napkins. (I never match).

Ingredients:

  • 1-1.5 cups total goat cheese, creme fraiche, plain yogurt
  • Fresh chives
  • Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Lemon
  • About 1/4 lb Smoked Salmon Slices
  • 1 Baguette or French Bread

This dish is a perfect appetizer or light dinner! It takes minutes to prepare and pairs beautifully with chilled Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, or Champagne. Monet thought Veuve Clicquot the best and ordered it often for Alice.

In one bowl, mix well 1-1.5 cups goat cheese and creme fraiche with a splash of plain yogurt or half-and-half. Wash and chop fresh thyme and chives to taste. Zest or finely chop lemon peel and mix in  (I use a vegetable peeler and peel three strips before chopping.) Salt/fresh ground pepper. (A wooden spoon works best.)

Next, coarse chop about 1/4 lbs smoked salmon slices and mix into the cheese mix. I do add a splash of fresh lemon juice.

Slice & toast French bread or Baguette and spread salmon on each. Arrange on this pretty platter and dust with more chopped chives.

 

MONET SCRAMBLE

Our New Favorite. Perfect for brunch or easy night in! Served fireside on Gingham Two-Toned Napkins and Marble Platter with Bistro Glasses and Grasse Napkins.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 Eggs
  • 2-3 slices Prosciutto (hand torn bite-sized)
  • 1 Shallot (chopped)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1/2-1 red Tomato (seeds drained and rough chopped)
  • 3 Asparagus (woody part discarded, cut bite-sized)iitake or Morel Mushrooms (for prep: read below)
  • Fresh Chives
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Butter

Marguerite’s Note: Really, there are too many variations of this beauty to try. For us? I “Sonoma-fied” Marguerite’s hand written recipe but kept her Mushroom Secret: And that is to trim the bottom. Cut the stems off entirely and finely slice or dice them. Then, halve or quarter the caps. She thought this preserved the texture of the mushrooms but boosted flavor. After making this scramble three times in the last week? I’ve converted.

Warm a non-stick frying pan (I worship my Lagostina non-stick (thanks to FeedFeed) and my All Clad omelette pan found at Sur La Table!). Melt two tablespoons of butter and add Asparagus. Once aromatic, add Garlic, Shallots and torn Proscuitto. Let Asparagus soften and Prosciutto crisp up a bit. (Add more butter if necessary). Add the chopped chives, salt and fresh cracked pepper (& mix) just before the cheese! Some 30 seconds later? Turn heat way down and add the eggs. Slowly scramble the eggs so they remain soft. Top with more chives and serve immediately with a crisp green salad.

Monet adored light-red wines such as Grenache with this dish. Idle Cellars (my friend Ben) makes some of the finest Grenache in the new world and pairs beautifully. We opted for a warm fire and our cold 2014 Annadel Sauvignon Blanc. Served here on Grasse & Gingham Napkins with Bistro glasses and marble circle.

CHEESE PLATTER WITH PARMA CANTALOUPE BITES

Living on a Vineyard has some perks. One of them is sundown with friends, great wine, and eating Monet’s favorite cheeses! Served here next to our Merlot Blocks on Cherry Blossom Tablecloth and assorted marble platters with Pink & Green Bistro Glasses thanks to Couleur Nature! Roses fresh cut from the garden behind me.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of 1 Melon (Canteloupe here but any neutral Melon will work)
  • Thinly sliced Prosciutto or Parma Ham
  • 1/2 wheel Camembert
  • Artisan Goat Cheese with Herbs (We like Skyhill Farms from Napa or Laura Chanel)
  • 1 Slice Blue with good marbling
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1-2 Sprigs fresh Mint
  • 1 bottle Veuve Clicquot (Monet favored Veuve above all else and enjoyed it with family at Christmas and every special occasion!)
  • 1 bottle chilled white wine (enjoyed with our Sauvignon Blanc)
  • Toothpicks (the cuter the better)

Easy to assemble! Arrange cheeses on chilled platter.

Next cube canteloupe. Fold bite-sized prosciutto/ham and top with fresh mint leaf. Spear the trio and place on platter. Lightly drizzle with high-quality balsamic vinaigrette. Serve immediately or wait awhile… Chilled marble platters keep everything fresh.

Sunset in the Vineyard, here at the historic Annadel Estate Winery, May 2017

 

MONET & SEAFOOD

Monet had a special place in his heart for fish. In fact, he painted 22 separate paintings along a particular stretch of coastline between Dieppe and Varengeville-sur-Mer. When visiting, Monet stayed at the Hotel La Terrasse where Fruits de la Mer is the house specialty. This “dish” remained a family favorite and was highly prized. Giverny was built before refrigeration so Alice & Monet splurged on this luxury only a few times a year, mostly Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve… In the meantime, Monet enlarged the initially small pond at Giverny and stocked it with fish for eating.

Dean could wait no more to dive into this gorgeous feast! Fresh, wild caught crab, oysters, shrimp and lobster paired beautifully with our 2015 Los Chamizal Vineyards Chardonnay atop Couleur Nature’s new La Mer tablecloth! Dipping sauces set in totally darling painted Aero Ceramic BowlsBistro glasses come in many colors… Chuck Williams selected this style of glass when he first brought back French cookware to America and opened the first Williams Sonoma here in Sonoma. Chuck thought they were practical, good for water, juice or wines, and were pretty. I could not agree more! Thrilled they now come in these beautiful colors at Couleur Nature!

Ingredients:

  • Assortment of fresh, preferably wild-caught fish. Monet loved mussels and clams, oysters, lobster and crab. My kids love all things prawn and I didn’t have the mental energy for mussels and clams so we went easy with oysters and a lobster tail (all to grill) as well as two crabs.
  • Lemon
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Tartar Sauce
  • Cocktail Suace

Shallot Vinaigrette if you do oysters: Chop 1 garlic and 1 shallot. Marinate in rice vinegar and squeeze a bit of hot sauce and fresh lemon into the thin mixture. (Keep it more vinegar than sauce.)

Chill platter in refrigerator. Arrange fresh greens artfully and place shellfish in a pretty pattern.  Garnish with fresh cut lemons.  I like putting bay shrimp in a separate small bowl (they look prettier.) And serve to great cheering of your guests!

 

Bibliography:

Monet’s Palate Cookbook, The Artist & His Kitchen Garden At Giverny, Aileen Bordman & Derek Fell

Monet’s Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet, Claire Jones (1989 ed.)

Art History, Vol. 2, Marilyn Stokstad

The Art Book, Phaidon

Food With The Famous, Jane Grigson (1979 ed.)

Monet Foundation at Giverny

ROBERT TOWNSEND: Artist Kitchens

FREE COLOR T.V.

Candy Hearts, Robert Townsend, Watercolor. (Sold but a personal favorite).

One perk as a painter, is genuinely appreciating other Artists. And sometimes, becoming really good friends. Robert Townsend is just such a person: stunning Painter — in a League of his own! — and solid family friend.  The fact he’s now a famed painter is just too fun.

I met Rob back in 2004 opening night of “Icons,” his very first solo show. I was a young professional working for the Mayor of L.A. and Rob, a Longshoreman in Long Beach.  Working in a shipyard at night and teaching himself to paint by day. Through books, exhibitions, and museums, Rob mined within a shockingly fine talent for colorfully painting vintage Americana.

Fun Pack, Robert Townsend, Watercolor. Altamira Gallery

Fast forward 10 years, and Life finds Rob and I earnestly still pursuing our dreams.  I make wine and paint in Sonoma and Rob thrives quietly as much sought after Artist, working long months on a single canvas, in Downtown Los Angeles. Remembering to hike and eat the end of most days. We’re still fast friends; it’s been a true joy watching him rise from sweetly awkward new painter to still-humble Star.


Reflections & Rivers, Robert Townsend, Oil.

From pinwheels to chipped neon signs, rusting trucks and forgotten roadside diners, Rob brilliantly catches the mystique and vibrancy of mid-century America. All that cheery, post-war optimism! Cautiously muted with nostalgic sadness for what’s been lost. On a personal note, I especially love his kitchen and food related works. I cook facing a trio of colorful confections he painted for Anni when she was born. It makes our kitchen happy.

Grand Canyon, Robert Townsend, Oil. Hanging in our Dining Room.

NOW. To me? As Rob’s friend and cheerleader, his newfound love for “Helen” is the stuff of Legend.

Helen was a mid-century, Indiana housewife. A woman who loved a good time, backyard barbecues and long road trips across 1960s America. Though Helen died long ago, Rob breaths life back into this huggable woman through a twist of fate — he found an old Kodak slide of Helen from one of her many trips and painted her. Finding his maternal muse in the process — or at least a favorite Aunt.

“Just Kay & Patty,” Robert Townsend, Oil… Rob first called Helen (on Left) “Kay” but later learned her real name in time for the second painting.

In Rob’s words, “…I found some slides on eBay, which had been bought at an Estate Sale in Indiana. I discovered they were part of a huge collection, featuring one very special and delightful woman with jet black hair and an amazing collection of clothes. She loved the camera and the feeling was mutual. I was able to acquire the whole collection” after more than a year of trying. Flying out to meet Helen’s family, even touring her home and small town with her niece.

Helen and Roy were married some 69 years in a Sears & Roebuck kit house. Playing host to many, many memorable backyard and cocktail parties. This is what Rob paints. Her echo. The memories of Laughter. Love. A real zest for Life!

Keeping Up With The Conleys, Robert Townsend, Oil.

Rob now owns (& cares for) some 3,000 slides of Helen, Roy and their loved ones. With 60 paintings planned in coming years – all set during Rob’s cherished mid century modern 1950s, 60s, and 70s.

It’s no wonder Rob doesn’t get much time to cook. Luckily, I fatten him up every couple of months when he visits our Farm.  Below are two recipes Rob makes often. Like, a lot.

Mango Smoothie, Robert Townsend, Watercolor. Owned by Weismann Art Collection.

 

MID CENTURY MODERN CHILI 

Rob’s note: “So here’s the thing, as a single artist working at home, it’s perfect. Spend an hour making it and have easy leftovers for days…. There’s also no onions in this, as I’m not a big onion person, but obviously it could be added along with peppers.”

“Probably” Makes 8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground Turkey
  • 1 can diced organic Tomatoes
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Celery
  • 1 Box Low Sodium, Organic Chicken Stock
  • 2 cans Kidney Beans
  • 1 Can Corn
  • 1 Bag Power Greens (Kale or Spinach)
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Cayenne
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Chili Powder
  • Salt / Pepper

Recipe explained, “Ok, in a big pot, sauté chopped carrots and celery. Then add Turkey. Break it up and cook to brown turkey. Add spices and garlic [to taste]. Add tomatoes, broth and beans and simmer 30 minutes. Add corn and greens for another 10 minutes.”

“I like to make Trader Joe’s Cornbread to serve with, and drink with an A&W Root Beer. That’s my meal!”

 

ROB’S BREAKFAST SCRAMBLE

Ingredients:

  • Eggs
  • Handful Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • Handful Shredded Cheese (to taste)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt / Pepper

Rob’s Recipe: Cut up some Yukon Gold potatoes and cook 35-45 minutes in olive oil, seasoning salt and pepper. Scramble [or fry up] a couple of eggs. Put potatoes on plate. Eggs on top. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of the whole thing.”

Enjoy!

EAT, Robert Townsend, Oil.

SOURCES:

Friendship & Cooking for Rob: www.freecolortv.com

Helen Film Trailer, The Art of Robert Townsend (video)

Galleries, Bios, & Available Works: Altamira Fine Art (Tucson), Hespe Gallery (San Francisco), & Imago Gallery (Palm Springs).

Interview at http://www.frankie.com.au/blogs/art/artist-appreciation-robert-townsend-interview

FRIDA’S Food: Artist Kitchens

Mary Cassatt wrote that women must choose between Art or Family & Hearth.  That Mind and Soul cannot properly support both. As an early 20 something, I dismissed that as antiquated. Fast forward 20 years, to me as mother, cook, and painter, I understand. How the Heart and Mind struggle to create each side of itself equally.

Frida’s Kitchen, La Casa Azul. Photo courtesy of the Frida Kahlo Museum

Frida navigated these waters herself. As Artist and as Wife, Artist & Homemaker… “We could not have a child, and I cried inconsolably but I distracted myself by cooking, dusting the house, sometimes by painting…” Though she did not have children, Frida’s focus largely orbited her husband, Diego Rivera. For Frida was most prolific as Artist when apart from Diego — and impassioned Wife and Domestic Goddess when together. Painting early, stopping by eleven to cook/bring Diego lunch and ensure a visually vibrant home with fresh cut flowers, indigenous foods, sculpture, art, monkeys, dogs, talking parrots, beautiful tablescapes… For Frida believed in attractive surroundings — starting with her Kitchen Table.  Teaching even her Art students to move servingware and decorative items around the table to find the most “pleasing manner…” From her kitchen (and home) outward, to see “in a way that was much different from the usual.” That enthusiasm for daily Beauty mattered. That Food and Rituals of Eating, mattered. And still does.

Here is where I ask you to join me!  When I wrote about Frida and her Cooking in October, many wanted to read her recipes. But I confusingly learned that Frida loved to cook and that she did not, that she preferred to host parties, decorate elaborately, or that her cook cooked… Regardless, here are a few (of many) recipes Frida’s stepdaughter remembers cooking and eating in their family kitchen. Most of the books I’ve read recently highlight dishes rooted in pre-Colonial, indigenous ingredients but the following recipes, most of us should be able to make from what we find in our shops and market places — swap in what you can’t find or don’t want to use such as butter or avocado oil for Lard, jalapeño for exotic chiles, etc. For Heritage and Traditions played much loved and revered roles in Frida’s (and Diego’s) Art as well as in the elevation of everyday aesthetics. I’ve only cooked her Shrimp Tacos but plan to cook the rest over the coming weeks… including Diego’s beloved Molè.  Join me!

Frida’s last painting before her death, Watermelons titled “Viva la Vida” (1954)

 

SHRIMP TACOS

(8 servings)

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 serrano chiles, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons / 65 g butter
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound / 50g cooked shrimp (peeled/deveined)
  • 24 medium tortillas

Sauté the onion and chiles in butter until the onion is translucent. Add tomatoes and salt/pepper to taste.  Cook for 10 minutes, until the tomato is thoroughly cooked. If the sauce becomes too thick, thin with a little chicken stock or water.

Add the shrimp and cook 2 minutes, just until they are heated through.

Fill the tortillas with the shrimp mixture and serve piping hot. Or serve the shrimp mixture with the tortillas on the side.

Note: I’d grill the tortillas and garnish with chopped cilantro and fresh lime.

 

SOPA SECO DE FIDEO

(8 servings)

  • 1 pound / 500g thin noodles
  • Corn oil
  • 10 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt
  • 3 parsley sprigs
  • 2 cups / 500 ml chicken broth
  • Pasilla chiles, fried and chopped, to taste
  • 2 avocados, peeled and sliced
  • 1& 1/2 cups / 375ml heavy cream
  • 1/2 pound / 250g añejo cheese grated (parmesan, queso fresco, or cojita cheese)

Sauté the noodles in hot oil in a saucepan until golden. Drain off all but three tablespoons of oil.

Puree the tomatoes with the onion, garlic, and salt to taste. Add the puree to the noodles and simmer together until the mixture has thickened. Add the parsley and chicken broth to cover. Cover the saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes, until the noodles are tender and the broth absorbed; add more broth if necessary. Discard the parsley leaves.

Pour the noodle mixture into a heated serving platter and garnish with chiles, avocados, cream and cheese.

 

BLACK BEAN SOUP

(8 servings)

  • 2 tomatoes, roasted and peeled
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil
  • 3 cups / 500g cooked black beans
  • 6 cups / 1.5 l cooking liquid from beans (or water)

Garnish:

  • Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 pound / 250g panel cheese, cut into small squares (or mozzarella, muenster, or quest fresco)
  • 3 tortillas, cut in small squares, fried in oil, and drained (or chips)

Puree the tomatoes with the onion, garlic, oregano, and salt to taste. Sauté in hot oil until thickened. Puree the beans with their cooking liquid. Add the bean puree to the tomato mixture and cook 5 to 10 minutes to blend flavors. Serve soup garnished with oregano, cheese, and tortilla squares.

 

ENCHILADAS TAPATíAS

(8 servings)

  • 24 small tortillas
  • Oil

For Sauce

  • 8 to 10 ancho chiles, roasted and deveined
  • 2 cups / 500ml boiling water
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • Salt
  • 1&1/2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 1 cup / 250ml sour cream
  • 1/2 pound / 250g añejo cheese, crumbled (or cojita or parmesan)

To make Sauce: Soak the chiles in the boiling water for about 10 minutes. Puree and drain. Sauté the onion and garlic in hot oil until translucent. Add the puree and salt to taste.  Cook for about 10 minutes to blend flavors.

Fry tortillas very briefly in hot oil. Dip in sauce, fill with chicken, and roll up. Arrange on a serving platter [or on serving dishes] top with more sauce, then with sour cream. Sprinkle with crumbled cheese.

 

SHORTBREAD COOKIES

(25 to 30 cookies)

  • 1 pound / 450g flour, sifted
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 300g lard
  • 1 cup / 190g superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup / 60ml rum
  • 2 cups / 160g confectioners sugar

Mound the flour on the counter or in a bowl and make a well in the center. Fill the well with the lard, sugar, and rum. Mix well to make a smooth dough. Roll out 1/2 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter of desired size, cut the dough into rounds and place on baking sheets. Bake in a preheated 350’F / 175’C oven until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and toss with confectioners’ sugar to coat well.

 

POTATOES IN GREEN SAUCE

(8 servings)

  • 2 pounds / 1k small potatoes
  • 2 pounds / tomatillos, peeled and scrubbed
  • 1 cup / 250ml water
  • 4 serrano chiles
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup / 100 g coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lard
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

Peel the potatoes and parboil them for 1 minute.  Set aside. Simmer the tomatillos with the water, chiles, and salt to taste until tender. Let cool slightly, the puree with the cilantro. Heat the lard in a skillet and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the tomatillo puree and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and continue to cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Note: Find smallest potatoes you can. You may parboil your potatoes 1-2 minutes longer if larger than small.

Serve in shallow bowl pooled with sauce and:

REFRIED BEANS

(8 servings)

  • 1/2 pound / 250g lard
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cups / 500g cooked beans
  • 1 cup / 250ml cooking liquid from [Pinot} beans
  • Salt
  • Grated añejo cheese (or parmesan [or Cojita])
  • Totopos (fried small tortilla triangles)

Heat the lard in a skillet. When it starts to smoke, add the onion and sauté until golden. Add the beans and cooking liquid. Mash the beans to make a puree. Season with salt to taste. When the Beans are well fried and pull away from the bottom of the pan when stirred, remove from the heat. Place the fried beans on a serving platter, shaping them into a log. Sprinkle with cheese and garnish with totopos.

Frida Kahlo, “Still Life With Parrot & Flag” 1933

An excerpt from the exterior wall of Frida’s La Casa Azul Kitchen: “This Kitchen contains a typical Mexican hearth. Although gas stoves were commonly used at the time Diego and Frida lived here, they preferred to cook the old fashioned way, with wood, and to prepare pre-Hispanic, colonial, and traditional dishes… “If we are not our colors, aromas, our people, what are we? Nothing.”

BLACK MOLÈ FROM OAXACA

(16 to 20 servings)

  • 1 pound / 500 g chihuacle chiles
  • 1/2 pound / 250g mulato chiles, seeded and deveined, seeds reserved
  • 1/2 pounds / 250g papilla chiles, seeded and devised, seeds reserved
  • 3/4 pound / 375g lard
  • 2 large onions, roasted
  • 1 head garlic, roasted
  • 3 stale tortillas
  • 2 slices egg bread
  • 3/4 cup / 100g blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup / 75 g shelled peanuts
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup / 70g sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup / 60g pumpkin seeds
  • Pinch of anise seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 10 coriander seeds
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 8 cloves
  • 3/4 cup cup / 100g raisins
  • 3 large bars Mexican chocolate (or semisweet chocolate)
  • 4 pounds / 2k ripe tomatoes roasted and peeled
  • 1 pounds / 500g small green tomatoes
  • 8 tablespoons lard
  • sugar and salt
  • 2 guajolotes (small turkeys) or 4 large chickens cut into pieces and cooked in a strong broth with carrots, onions, and herbs ** Reserve the broth.

** There’s a bit of discrepancy between this recipe and others, mostly in terms of herb count. Such as 2 cloves versus 8, 1 teaspoon anise versus pinch, 4 garlic versus one head… So use intuition and cook to taste.

Quickly fry the chilies in hot lard, being careful not to let them burn. Place the fried chilies in a large saucepan in hot water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer until soft.

In the same hot lard, sauté the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the tortillas, bread, almonds, peanuts, cinnamon, reserved chile seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, anise seeds, cumin seeds, thyme, marjoram, oregano, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cloves, raisins, and chocolate. Sauté for a few minutes. Puree this mixture with the tomatoes and the chiles. Strain the puree and cook in 8 tablespoons lard. Stir in sugar and salt to taste and 2 cups turkey/chicken broth. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the turkey, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes to blend flavors. If the mixture is too thick, add more turkey broth as needed.

Note: Chihuacles are special chiles from Oaxaca: you can substitute cascabel chiles.

Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Select Acknowledgements:

Frida Kahlo At Home by Suzanne Barbezat

Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo by Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle (*all featured recipes above)

PBS Documentary (2004) The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo. A Film by Amy Stechler

The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait. Intro. by Carlos Fuentes and Sarah M. Lowe.

MONET: Artist Kitchens

The summer of 1997, I earned a spot in an Art Theory class taught in south of France. I fell in love three times that summer — and no, not with French boys leering at our glaringly white-bikini-lined breasts that yelled “American!” as far as boobs could see.  But far more seriously: True Love affairs, the kind that never leave you:

  • First with Matisse.
  • Then Monet.
  • And with the Cote d’Azur.

Deep blue waters, even bluer skies. Wild lavender under nose. Soft green olive branches rustled overhead. Countless stone alleyways to walk, art to see, fascinating lectures about galleries and the act of Art Display — something as a young artist I hadn’t yet thought to even consider. That was also the summer I met espresso, chilled Rose, crisp green Niçoise salads, briny olives, and plates of cheap meats coaxed into something heavenly after long afternoons simmering in light bodied, red wine, sautéed ramps, and garlic. We ate well once a day and sometimes, I snuck off from the other girls and ate alone. With a book. Or just the view… Trying something new or revisiting a glistening strawberry tart I just couldn’t forget. This was before the popular food revolution back home in America; many flavors were simply revelations. I called home on pay-phones and carried money under my shirt. I tried to miss life back in college. But summer was THAT delicious. It’s no wonder my love affair with French food interlaced with my youthful discovery of Fauves & Impressionism –to capture how a single, real moment FEELS and painting that which your heart wishes only to remember. Much like flavor…

Water Lilies Teal.

Water Lilies Teal.

Oscar Claude Monet is arguably king Impressionist and, it turns out, painter of good looking food. Cookbooks, essays, lectures, and biographies have detailed Monet’s love for food and for family.  But I was surprised to learn that he struggled to earn this luxury. For decades. That his young adult life was frought with hunger, bills, sadness, disdainful family, and creditors. But that after his early 40s, and the untimely death of his young wife, Monet bravely began again. Enjoying the culinary, domestic, and artistic revelry to which he had so rightly earned.

Claude Monet

Jar of Peaches, Claude Monet

Born November 14, 1840 in Paris to a wealthy grocer father and a vibrant singer mother, “Oscar” Claude Monet lived a pleasant, rather strict Catholic childhood first in Paris and later in seaside Normandy. Then, as a young teen, Monet decided to become an Artist. His parents discouraged his painting but did allow him to attend art school in Le Havre — learning Plein Aire painting, or painting of natural light in fresh air. When his mother died suddenly in 1857, Monet’s father gave his teenage son an ultimatum: stop painting NOW and join the family grocery business. Monet refused. And his father cut him off entirely, forcing 16 years old “Claude” to take refuge with his widowed Aunt Sophie Lecadre. Though she provided him only with food and housing, Monet began to build a local reputation for sketching striking charcoal portraits of neighbors and beachgoers.

Earning enough to take him to Paris, Monet skipped the Louvre (& museums in general) — where he saw fellow students only madly copying the Masters — and opted instead to paint what he “saw out windows” with the meager art supplies he had brought with him. Starting in 1862, Monet enrolled in Art School under Charles Gleyre and met lifetime friends Pierre August Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Edouard Manet… and then? There was his model Camille Doncieux whom he met first when she posed for his “Camille, La Femme a la Robe Verte”.  She was soon very much pregnant and the couple moved into a cold, one bedroom apartment.  With no kitchen.

Friends and painters Monet, Renoir, Sisley, etc gathered their meager reserves and held picnics in the public parks to eat better together than alone.

Friendly painters Monet, Renoir, Sisley, et al gathered their meager pantry reserves and held picnics in public parks to eat better together than alone. Camille glows center. Detail of Monet’s “The Picnic” (1865-1866)

Now this was a heady time, pregnant or not. And I am skipping/simplifying much for the sake of getting to the food… But while Monet and friends are famous today, back then? They were literally “starving artists” pushing back against the establishment to carve their own branch of modernism: the Impressionists. Much of their meetings taking place in cheap Paris “cafe’s where the cutlery was chained to the table” and over inexpensive picnics in public parks with cheap wine, stale bread and cheese.  Monet’s father and Aunt hated all of it — the squalor, the art, the pregnant girlfriend. And Monet concealed much of his life but just could not stay away. From his art, Camille, and baby boy; returning to Paris and marrying Camille in June 1870. Their life did not improve but they were at least together — moving often to avoid creditors, losing commissioned paintings to debt collection. Still, Monet painted some of the most touching, peaceful scenes of his young family and friends sharing bucolic meals together often in dappled sunlight.

One of Monet's many food paintings. Even though Wine was not quite his thing? Food definitely was.

One of Monet’s many food paintings. Even though Wine was not quite his thing? Food definitely was.

After their second son, Michael, was born, Camille’s health deteriorated further and Monet drew dangerously close to committing suicide under the mounting pressure of poverty. But his love for Camille and their sons sustained him. Still “beautiful Camille” died from cancer in August 1879 at age 32 in the house of wealthy patron and friend, Ernest Hoschede.  Monet was alone again. Destitute, heart broken, and with two young sons to raise. Monet had painted 31 paintings featuring Camille in scenes of domestic, well-fed harmony… when reality was one of cold, hunger, debt… and Love.

Camille in Japanese Costume (Claude Monet, 1876)

Camille in Japanese Costume (Claude Monet, 1876)

Monet stays on to live with the wealthy Hoschede family (and eats well for the first time in decades). Monet was still recovering from the death of his wife when Ernest suddenly went bankrupt, abandons his wife Alice and their six children (6!) and flees for Belgium 1881. Never to return.

Widower Monet, jilted Madame Alice Hoschede and their total combined EIGHT children platonically regroup and collectively move to Poissy where after time, a slow love affair begins to flame.  Then burn. And, finally, finally, FINALLY, Monet begins to reap the financial reward of his growing fame. 

Perhaps once of the most famous paintings in the entire world: Impressions of Sunrise by Claude Monet 1872

Perhaps once of the most famous paintings in the entire world: Impressions of Sunrise by Claude Monet 1872

Monet and Alice hated life in Poissy but during a train ride, discovered nearby Giverny. Promptly purchasing acreage with a pond and moving into a small home with all eight children and a Cook.  Garden design and home renovations began at once with Monet’s eye focused on natural light for interiors and thick, lush floral beauty outside complete with now famous water-lily gardens and his burnt orange, Japanese bridge.  Monet chose happy colors of lemon yellow for the dining room, many blues and white tile for their kitchen, and a soft pink exterior created by hand mixing crushed bricks with white plaster. Monet treated the design and coloring of their home — especially their dining spaces — with sincere artistic affection.

Branch of Lemons, Monet 1883

Branch of Lemons, Monet 1883

Alice finally marries Monet upon the death of her long estranged husband in 1892. And it is during this second marriage, Monet achieves the culinary bliss denied him during his first chapter in adult life. At Giverny, Monet grew happy “to eat as much as four men at every meal” and deeply relished their domestic refuge.  Happily, his art, regular visitors, and large, loud, lovingly blended family rotated around mealtimes. Literally.  It is during this period that Monet paints pictures of food and tablescapes with a sumptuous, new richness certainly enjoyed in real time.

Alice & Claude Monet's restored kitchen in Giverny.

Alice & Claude Monet’s kitchen in Giverny. Note the Briffaut stove and blue cupboards with brass handles.

Jane Grigson in Food with the Famous (my new favorite, out of print book) describes a day in the life of Monet and his food: “Monet got up at four or five in the morning, ate a huge breakfast and set out to paint. He came back to the house at eleven o’clock, ready for lunch promptly at midday. This was the time for greeting friends…and distinguished visitors, more and more of them as the years went by. After the meal, which might take place on the wooden terrace in front of the house if the weather was right, everyone would walk around the garden, and over to the water-lilies… Six gardeners were employed…He demanded a delicate fullness of color and delight in the garden as well as on the table.”

Monet carefully chose the most jubilant, buoyant colors in their garden to bring indoors. This is their Dining Room.

Monet carefully chose the most jubilant, buoyant colors in their garden to bring indoors. This is their Dining Room.

No matter the meal, Monet preferred fine, freshly grown food in what we understand today as “farm-to-table.” Breakfast followed a bit of routine however for Monet: fresh goat cheese, sliced cold meats or smoked salmon, warm sausages, omelettes spiced with fresh herbs, toast, marmalade and hot tea. Monet ate at 5:00am before sunrise, honoring Plein Aire painting beliefs that dawn and dusk offered the finest natural light. Lunch to be taken at midday because light then was flat, dull, and not romantic in the least.

Dinner after dusk was often a lively, happy affair with family and many formerly “starving” Artist friends dropping in to enjoy Giverny’s bounty and their ever-growing success.  Relishing fine, light bodied wines (like Sancerre and reds from the Loire) over lingering meals including foie gras, truffles, roasted poultry with fresh herbs, sautéed mushrooms, green salads just garden picked, local cheeses, roasted beef, garlic vinaigrettes, and heavily peppered olive oils for dipping fresh bread. Monet loved homemade charcuterie, rillettes, and pate before lunch or dinner — all spiced with “quatres-éspices” (fine ground pepper or all-spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.)  Freshly caught fish was a big favorite and served with beurre blanc. Monet also regularly requested sides of veal, risottos, and lots of fowl such as duck. After a second trip to Algiers with Renoir, Monet directed his gardeners to add “new” Mediterranean herbs and vegetables to their garden to liven up traditional Normandy fare.

Monet’s household menus reflected each season. Not because of an epicurean preference but because in late 1800s – early 1900s this was the norm. Monet did stipulate foods should be fresh and as fine as possible… Accented with hints of luxury.  Common Asparagus was to be trimmed, bound with twine, and steamed upright with baby potato halves tucked into the water below. Served together garnished with bits of chopped boiled egg, vinaigrette and minced parsley. (I want to make this next week). Asparagus holds a special place on French tables, rich or poor, as a flavorful vegetable and easy to acquire when in season at local markets or picked roadside where growing wild. And was a vegetable Monet enjoyed even when impoverished throughout his 20s and 30s.

Another fine side dish Monet carried forward to his bountiful table at Giverny is “Haricots au Vin de Chanturgues”: red beans simmered barely submerged in a light, bulk red wine.  At Giverny, however, this simple dish bumped up the opulence by using Gamays from the Chanturgues region along with sliced bacon, creamed butter, chopped parsley, and a beurre blanc for finishing this once rustic staple.

 Fun fact? Monet enjoyed sketching a particularly beautiful food for later painting, making his family wait like so many today on social media. Especially baked goods, like these Galettes.

Fun fact? Monet enjoyed sketching particularly beautiful food for later paintings, sometimes making his family wait like many food lovers today on social media. Especially baked goods, like these Galettes.

Monet’s most treasured friendships continued to thrive, rooted deeply in their past, shared experiences as struggling, hungry artists.  Regular friends at table often included Pissarro, Rodin, Renoir, Cezanne, John Singer Sergeant, Sisley, and Mary Cassatt mingling with his ever growing brood of family.  With such an incredible guest list, I was surprised to read that Art was RARELY discussed during mealtime; Food being the main topic.  Monet believed that verbally discussing and enjoying the food in front of them was an important mental and sensory exercise.  And compliment to Cook. To not do so, he considered “barbaric.” Food played a significant, daily role in Monet’s art and inspiration — both as struggling artist and later, as grateful, blended family patriarch happy to eat well and reap rewards earned from decades of hungry effort.

When I started this process last month, I wanted to see if there was any connection between creative types and what they chose to cook and eat. Plus how they chose to dine.  Or if there even was any connection?  And I’ve found that there really can be direct correlation between an Artist’s state of mind and their table. I’m not sure who is next but it could be Thomas Jefferson, Georgia O’Keefe or Jane Austen.  Either way, I hope you stay with me.

Happy eating everyone! And stay tuned on FB or Instagram as I cook through recipes from Frida’s Kitchen (last month) and Monet (November, this month.)

Abigail

 

FRIDA: Artist Kitchens

Welcome to “The Creative Palate: Artist Kitchens!”

Cooking and Art are two sides to the same coin. (In my book.) Taking raw ingredients to create something nourishing body or soul. Sometimes both. I’m not talking artsy culinary “perfect” but rather, what we as cooks (artists) choose to EAT and make for ourselves (families and friends) in the privacy of our own homes.

Cloaked from public eye, singular behaviors become just that: personal and private. Intimate. Being a food lover, and an artist, I began to wonder how some of my favorite artists and writers, leaders and visionaries approached their own kitchens and daily meals. Or did they even think of it? As I mulled this over making carbonara, I realized I did approach my cooking similarly to my easel: with an impressionistic vision in mind but open to seasonal influences and available ingredients/colors.  But how did the great creatives approach their FOOD? Did they cook for themselves? Or hire cooks? How did they choose to dine? Any rituals or routines? Did they eat in their socks and read the paper? Or have long meals filled with conversation? And did their favorite foods reflect style of Art? And recipes! Do any survive?

Nerding out completely, I started ordering out-of-print books on food history and reading up online. And it turns out, many artists did in fact have specific opinions about food, eating routines and favorite recipes. Like you’d imagine Julia Child whipped up fancy fare for guests but she did not.  Instead, serving guests bowls of cheddar flavored Goldfish crackers. (Isn’t that a hoot?) I kept going, reading about Georgia O’Keefe, Monet, Jane Austen among others. Amazon had quite the month with my credit card. And the first artist I want to tell you about is Frida Kahlo.

Frida Khalo captured later in her life before she died at age 47.

Frida Khalo captured later in her life.

Born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderon on July 6, 1907, “Frida Kahlo” was a Mexican painter known particularly for self-portraits and surrealist, Feminist expression of the female experience, indigenous folk art, and nationalistic rhetoric.  Leading Surrealist Andre Breton beautifully described her work as a “ribbon around a bomb.” Painting herself came naturally as the horrific traffic accident she survived as a teenager  (after surviving Polio) in her native Mexico City left life long health effects that often isolated Frida from her family and community. Kahlo’s volatile marriage to the hugely famous Diego Rivera brought her to the international stage but her sheer talent, unusual beauty, and original painting kept her there. And in some ways, eclipsed those accolades of her husband. In droves.

Self Portrait With Thorn Necklace & Mockingbird (1940)

Self Portrait With Thorn Necklace & Mockingbird (1940)

When not traveling for mural commissions (Diego) and shows (both souses and later. Frida), Diego Rivera and Frida lived a colorfully domestic life — when happy — with very definite opinions about food and how they ate. Preferring traditional indigenous Mexican dishes eaten together as part of a kind of elevated artistic experience rooted in the “working class.”  When relished, Frida purposefully created “small still lifes” for Diego to visually enjoy during their noon meal (Comida). Her tablescapes celebrated native Mexican vibrancy, flavors, and culture with colorful pre-Colonial styled ceramics, linens, small flower arrangements, 10-12 plates of foods… Even inviting household pets to the table “for movement.”  Their parrot –who only said “No me pasa la cruda” (“I can’t get past this hangover”) — pecked at fruits while their little monkeys jumped between their shoulders.

I love these details. And I like to think of her as a happy spouse. From the beginning, eating “food of the people” was part of Diego’s daily creative process. And for Frida too.  During these times, Frida departed from her excruciating self-portraits to include still-lifes and vibrant domestic interiors drawn increasingly from Mexican folk art.  How fascinating that an artist so revered for her unflinching take on the female experience (plus ardent Communist and Feminist), loved sweetly enough to endeavor domestic beauty. And harmony.

So many images to choose from. Volatile a marriage, yes. But great love and collaboration as well.

So many images to choose from. Volatile a marriage, yes. But great love and collaboration as well.

Recipes kept to pre-Colonial, pre-Hispanic foods rooted in the deep culinary traditions of indigenous Mexico. Dishes like Zucchini blossom soup, cucumber salads, pork stews, and chicken Escabeche.  Diego’s favorite plate of all was Mole, a recipe Frida learned to make from Lupe, Diego’s second wife (and her predecessor) who lived upstairs in their first home as married couple. Actually, Lupe owned the building and lived on the top floor with her two daughters while Frida and Diego, lived ground floor. Despite the unconventional housing arrangement, Frida and Lupe grew to be good friends and Lupe taught Frida many recipes Diego preferred.  Frida later expanded her cooking repertoire when the couple moved to La Casa Azul and began cooking from her mother’s The New Mexican Cook (published first in 1888).  Ironically, the Rivera’s did not see a conflict between their domestic help and their politics, employing cooks who could authentically create indigenous dishes.

Often entertaining many guests at once, meal time gatherings at the Rivera’s were noted not just for good food, strident leftist discussions, music, and copious libation but also for eating in the manner of the “poor working class.”  Tortillas in lieu of forks and knives.  Food cooked in the old style over wood flame and no modern stove or equipment like a refrigerator. Should Diego be painting a mural and unable to make the noon meal, Frida took him his lunch in a turquoise pewter pail just as “campesino women” took lunch to their husbands in the fields. Frida’s pail for Diego likely included a protein, rice and beans and topped always with warm tortillas, fresh fruit, sweet breads, and flowers artistically arranged.

Biographer Hayden Herrera describes the couples’ typical eating day (during happy times): “breakfast would be leisurely with Frida or an assistant reading the newspaper to Diego, who did not want to tax his eyes. Afterward, Frida would either paint or go to the market and Diego would go off to work. If he’d been drawing in the marketplace — where he went often to observe the poor who were his most important subjects — he would come home for comida… bringing an ingredient for the cook to incorporate.”

Food and the rituals of Eating were important to the couple. Part of their marital rhythms.  Frida relished being the central woman in Diego’s life and they divided kitchen, household responsibilities according to traditional Mexican roles.  And for Frida, “domestic tasks took on the nature of an art project…Setting the table was a ritual.. [And] the food itself was treasured for it’s beauty as well as for it’s flavors. After her self portraits, most of Frida’s paintings her still-life works of flowers, food, and domestic interiors. Pivotal paintings still celebrated for her surreal depictions of Mexican national and indigenous pride and unflinching imagery of female experience and form.

Viva la Vida (1954)

Viva la Vida (1954)

Frida’s most personal kitchen was her last (and first kitchen) in her childhood home “La Casa Azul”. Frida continued to live (and eat) here throughout her life — with or without Diego. With or without her parents. Her sisters. Friends. She had no children. Despite their numerous attempts…miscarriages…abortions. Today, it is part of the Frida Khalo Museum and still decorated with her brightly colored yellow and cobalt blue tile, sugar skulls, fresh flowers, and her traditional ceramic cookware, much of which was no longer made even by 1940s.  Both the names of Frida and Diego decorate one wall and the recipe for Diego’s favorite Mole is enshrined outside on a museum plaque.

I had trouble finding recipes and kitchen notes about her cooking habits after she and Diego divorced.  Frida took great pride in feeding Diego, fussing over him and even bathing him.  I appreciate Frida embracing her inner Sapphos yet Wifely Warrior while navigating the early 20th century world to which she was born.  Reveling as Artist, Beauty, Wife, Survivor, Daughter / Sister, and Cook… All the while on deep pain medication of some kind. Always… Perhaps though, when Diego was gone, Frida turned to Art more fully as her emotional outlet (her marriage) gave way to sharing her creative wellspring between Diego and Easel. image-1-2-png