Cooking With the French Impressionists

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“I was thrilled to sit at one of the tables where the master had eaten his lunch and dinner. I was aware that he had been everywhere in this room.” ~Alexandra Stoddard Gracious Living in a New World

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This is one of my favorite cookbooks. I love using recipes from books that add meaning to what I’m cooking, and depth to the cooking experience. This book has one of the best recipes for Warm Tart Tatin with Creme Fraiche that I’ve ever tried. I will cook it this autumn, take a picture and share the recipe with you.

The first image that seems to always come to mind when I think of Van Gogh, is his short life and how sad it was for the world to have lost this visionary at the prime of his painting career. What really appealed to me about this book, Van Gogh’s Table at the Auberge Ravoux, is that there was so much more that made up Vincent’s daily round than most people think about or realize when admiring his art. In the pages of this book  a much more mild daily existence is revealed. We get a glimpse of Van Gogh’s meals with friends and neighbors. Van Gogh’s Table presents a kinder view of his world. Authors Alexandra Leaf, a culinary historian, and Fred Leeman, the former chief curator of the Van Gogh Museum, give us  a closer look at his last home and his last days. Van Gogh traveled all the time and frequently boarded at small hotels and dined in cafés. During his few months at the Auberge Ravoux, van Gogh produced many amazing pieces of art. This book is a tribute to the incredible painter, and the café life that inspired him. Leaf and Leeman have combined stories and gorgeous images of the artist’s life and art with menus from his days at the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise, a village twenty miles from Paris.

I first became intrigued with the Auberge Ravoux while reading a book called Gracious Living in a New World by Alexandra Stoddard, one of my favorite authors. There is a chapter in this book called The Van Gogh Connection which I find so inspiring! I love her description of this place:

When our bread arrived at the table I knew it was the same kind of bread baked for the painter. It was sliced on a cutting board, perhaps the very same one used to slice his bread. The smell of garlic, butter and soupe de poisson emanating from the kitchen flooded my senses. I had to have everything I knew he’d enjoyed; so I went all the way and ordered la specialite de l’ Auberge Ravoux: gigot d’agneau de sept heurs (the seven hour lamb, which I learned was van Gogh’s favorite…I can still taste this remarkable meal.

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Another of my favorite cookbooks, Monet’s Table-The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet, is such a beautiful book. Jeff and I made the Daube de Bananes (Bananas in Red Wine) just a few nights ago. It was such a unique, delicious dessert. Jeff said it made the house smell like Christmas!

Bananas in Red Wine

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

6 bananas split lengthwise

3 cups dry red wine

3 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the bananas. Saute until golden, turning to brown both sides. Transfer them to a plate. Set aside. Pour the wine into a large saucepan along with the sugar and cinnamon. Boil over medium to low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the bananas and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot.

I can’t wait to travel to France so I can dine at the Auberge Ravoux, and tour the homes of two of my favorite artists.

~Melissa

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