Perhaps you saw the 2004 documentary Monet’s Palate: A Gastronomic View From the Gardens of Giverny, narrated by Meryl Streep, featuring Daniel Boulud, Roger Vergé, Anne Willan and Alice Waters. It was made by Essex County resident Aileen Bordman.
Claude Monet, it turns out, loved to cook, grew vegetables in his gardens and made meals as sensuous as his paintings. Monet’s Palate was the kind of film that makes you hungry.
Now you can satisfy that hunger without leaving home. Bordman–with writer/photographer Derek Fell of Bucks County, Pennsylvania–has turned her movie into an equally sensuous and artful literary and gastronomic work, Monet’s Palate Cookbook: The Artist & His Kitchen Garden at Giverny.
In the foreword by Streep, the actress and Summit native writes of her first visit to Monet’s home some 20 years ago, “We were greeted with kindness by Helen Rappel Bordman, who, I later
learned, had been part of the renaissance of Monet’s home and garden at Giverny. We visited the interior of his home, including his splendid kitchen and bright yellow dining room. The fact that Monet was as passionate about his garden and cuisine as he was about his art was enchanting.”
Aileen Bordman, the filmmaker and author and daughter of Helen, will begin her tour to promote the book at at 7 pm this Wednesday, May 13th, at the Barnes & Noble on Broadway and 82nd Street in Manhattan.
In 1978, Helen saw an exhibit of the artist’s work at the Museum of Modern Art, and a movement was set in motion that, thanks to both mother and daughter, continues to grow. When Helen later discovered that Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France–where he had made his world-famous series of water lily paintings–were lying in disrepair, she gathered a philanthropic group of Americans to raise money to bring the gardens back to life.
Helen began spending every spring living on the grounds of Giverny and serving as a steward of the estate. Now, thanks to her efforts and a team of hard-working volunteers, up to 8000 people a day visit the idyllic, historically-restored gardens in spring and summer.
Thus it was that Aileen, during a vacation from her job as a financial advisor, visited her mother in France and found herself sitting in Monet’s canary-yellow dining room, at his very own table, surrounded by flowers, local apple cider, Camembert and crusty bread. She was struck by the artist’s profound appreciation of nature and the seasons both in his palette and on his palate.
That revelation inspired the documentary and now the cookbook. In its luscious pages (luscious in every way, in the color photography, the writing and the recipes) readers are introduced to the artist’s blue-tiled kitchen and the massive wood-burning stove on which Monet’s chef, Marguerite, cooked his meals and served them on yellow and blue Limoges porcelain plates that he personally designed.
Although the artist’s ‘potager’ garden of herbs and vegetables is defunct, Aileen turned to her friend, Fell, a well-known master gardener, writer and photographer, to recreate it on his Pennsylvania farm. He photographed its lushness for the book, and Aileen then developed more than 60 recipes based on Monet’s favorite foods, like apple and fennel soup with savory baguette croutes; zucchini salad with Roquefort, hazelnuts and herbs; roasted cod with fresh corn, red pepper, onion and caper salad; and Normandy French-apple tart.
Aileen compares Monet’s culinary mindset to today’s farm-to-table philosophy. The book includes a schematic to help readers design their own kitchen gardens and bring the Monet’s Palate aesthetic into their own homes.
“The way Monet lived is all the more important to us now,” she says. “I feel this mission to carry the baton with my mother. Every day I am busy trying to share and preserve his world and bring it into the future.”
Roasted Cod with Fresh Corn, Red Pepper, Onion and Caper Salad
6 main course servings
6 large ears corn, shucked
1 cup (175 g) diced red bell pepper
1 ⁄ 2 cup (75 g) diced red onion
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
6 tablespoons (90 ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoons caper juice
1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon sea salt
1 ⁄ 4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 (6- to 8-ounce) (170 g to 225 g) skinless cod fillets
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1 ⁄ 4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 ⁄ 4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For corn salad:
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add corn and cook 3 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Drain corn and add to ice water to stop cooking and preserve color. Pat corn dry with paper towels. Cut kernels off cobs, cutting close to cobs. Place corn in a large bowl. Add pepper, onion and capers. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, caper juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over corn mixture and toss well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve
Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Pat cod dry with paper towels. Brush a 9 x 13-inch (23 cm x33 cm) baking dish with olive oil. Place cod in prepared baking dish and turn to coat both sides of cod with oil. Sprinkle cod with oregano and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until cod flakes easily with fork, about 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spatula, transfer cod to plates. Divide corn salad among plates. Serve immediately