Picks and Pans Review: The Artist's Palate

UPDATED 04/18/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 04/18/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Nadine Haim

Artists, it would seem, are always trying to cook up their next masterpiece. If it isn't in the studio, it's in the kitchen among the pots and pans. Which is the point of this book, a savory literary bouillabaisse of recipes and reminiscences on the art of cooking from 42 painters and sculptors, including David Hockney, Fernando Botero and William Bailey. The idea is not unprecedented. In 1977 the Museum of Modern Art published a cookbook with the help of some of the biggest talents in the American art world. But Haim, a Frenchwoman who is both an art and a food expert, is on friendly terms with many of her contributors, and she has whipped together a fresh mixed-media aesthetic feast. Paintings, watercolors and drawings, some created especially for the book, illustrate to delightful effect the 140 recipes for the artists' favorite dishes. It's hard to imagine the brooding, murderously keen British painter Francis Bacon in a domestic setting. Yet here he is with a recipe, even if it is for that bloody dish, steak-and-kidney pie. Bacon's 1978 painting Side of Beef, heavy on blue and swirls of red, accompanies the recipe. David Hockney's kitchen palette, on the other hand, is as unfailingly light and bright as his art. The painter has a cozy-old-mum side that shines through with his recipe for strawberry shortcake. His cheery Strawberry Cake on a Blue Plate, a drawing done in 1978, looks as scrumptious as the recipe sounds. French artist Georges Jeanclos goes off on one of the book's wilder culinary adventures. His recipe for honey chicken calls for one chicken, two pounds of honey and 20 pounds of onions. While preparing the dish, Jeanclos says, he invariably mutters to himself, in tears, "What if my guests don't like onions?" Maybe they'd prefer Geshmeerta—it means smeared matzohs in Yiddish. The only dish American illustrator David Levine confesses to having in his repertoire has as its main ingredients matzohs, cottage cheese, cream and sugar. Unlevined Bread—get it?—a 1987 drawing of the artist painting a matzoh is part of the picture. And finally, watch out for Soupe au caillou, or Pebble Soup. The hearty pork-and-vegetable dish is a specialty of French artist Christian Zeimert, whose recipe calls for one large pebble at the bottom of the pot to raise the water level (and reduce the amount of liquid required). Coinciding with the book's publication is The Artist's Palette, a traveling exhibit that opened at the Claude Bernard Gallery in New York and will appear at the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock (June 24-Aug. 7) and the Edwin A. Ulrich Museum in Wichita (Sept. 7-Oct. 16). Future stops include Fresno, Calif., Amarillo, Texas, and Miami Beach. (Abrams, $35)

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