Friday, November 26, 2010

Guest post - eating art history!

I was recently in New York City, and was describing one of my adventures to my godmother and she thought it would make a terrific guest post on her blog - Buttercup Counts Her Blessings.  Go check it out.  Here's the text though:

One of the amazing things I got to do in New York City on my recent visit is the kind of thing that makes the City worth the visit every time, because these kinds of adventures simply can't happen everywhere.  My terrific friend Alexa found out about this "workshop" and signed us up.  Three girlfriends and I got to "cook art history".  This is the tagline of ArtBites (  Maite, an art historian who decided to go to culinary school, took us around two sections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art - the French Enlightenment and early American sections.  The connection was Thomas Jefferson.  When he was the minister to France for the last 5 years before the French Revolution, under the court of Louis XVI, he got to experience the luxurious customs of the French court, and see the enormous disparity in wealth.  Specifically, he got a chance to see how food played a role in everyone's life (most of the riots leading to the revolution were about food, and led to Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" statement).  We got to see the luxury of the few remaining royal silver serving dishes (most were melted down during the revolution) and Maite talked about how these things influenced Jefferson when he returned to Virginia and then the White House.  As a man of contradictions (he was opposed to slavery yet never freed his own slaves) he was able to integrate some of the luxurious uses of fresh ingredients and herbs he saw at Versailles with his farm in Virginia.  We moved on to see a Baltimore dining room circa 1800, and could see the connections between the French luxury and the new American simplicity. The simple use of gold leaf edgings invoked the french luxury but were done without excess.   
After soaking up all this culture, we were taken to a professional kitchen and given several of Jefferson's actual recipes - written in letters to friends back in the States.  We were turned loose in groups and assigned a portion of a Jeffersonian meal.  Herb salad with Mustard Vinaigrette (he LOVED Maille mustard, still available today), Spring peas with mint (this simple dish was wonderful), roasted potatoes, roasted green beans with olives and tomatoes, dill crusted salmon, and Chicken Fricassee.  My group made the chicken and we had a lot of fun cooking for the rest of our group.  The dessert was a perfect combination of Old World and New - Apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream.  The apples were from New York, but the first American recipe for vanilla ice cream was written in Jefferson's own hand.  
Overall, a wonderfully stimulating day - smart, yummy, and once in a lifetime.  I think Maite travels around the country - using other museums and other kitchens, so check out her website. 

1 comment:

Buttercup said...

You can be a guest poster anytime! Check out your comments. Your're a hit with Buttercup's readers, and of course with me!