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The Art of Cuisine by Henri de…

The Art of Cuisine

by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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The whole Paris world knew that Toulouse-Lautrec delighted in dressing up en travestie, that he haunted the dance halls and was on a first-name basis with the denizens of the bordellos. What only his friends knew was that he judged his contemporaries as much by their taste buds as their art appreciation.

He delighted in toiling in the kitchen, and the gourmet dishes that he concocted are now a matter of record: 197 of his recipes, jotted down at the time by his close friend and dealer, Maurise Joyant, have been published in this delightful book, illustrated with Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings and drawings, including the menus he designed and decorated for his own gourmet meals. The frontpiece is a portrait by Edouard Vuillard of Lautre preparing one of his masterful dishes. The recipes are given in their original form, retaining their color of thought and language, with notes added to facilitate the work of modern food lovers.

He had his own ideas of how a meal should go. He preferred lunch to dinner, rarely invited more than ten and included a few women--two at most. He abhorred water and put goldfish in the water pitchers to discourage would-be teetotalers. Once at table, his guests braced themselves for surprises. Much of Lautrec's cuisine was inspired by classic dishes, but his real penchant was for the exotic: eel liver, fried octopus, thrush en casserole.
He also liked to dine off heron, coot en cocotte, boar and sauteed squirrel ("an exquisite taste").

His chef d'oeuvre was wood pigeon with olives. The pigeons were stuffed with beef, veal, sausage, pepper, nutmeg and truffles. After being sauteed, they were put in a casserole to simmer. An hour later, pitless, desalted green olives were added, along with cognac. So highly did Latrec esteem the dish that this supreme put-down was to say: "They don't deserve my wood pigeon in olives."

But if cooking was on a par with painting, it was not necessarily first. At one memorable meal, prepared for painter Edouard Vuillard and some close friends (around 1897), Lautrec forced them away from the table after the cheese course and led them to the apartment of a friend. He pointed to a freshly painted Degas on the wall, and exclaimed: "There is your dessert." ( )
  BibliAuPair | Mar 4, 2007 |
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