Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840, in Paris, France. He enrolled in the Academie Suisse where he spent about a year before he was drafted into the army. He became sick with typhoid fever in the army and returned home a few years later. Monet continued to paint outdoor scenes. His paintings were becoming accepted by the art critics in Paris. He then decided to take on large project he called Women in the Garden. This was a huge painting, over eight feet tall, that he painted outside in the natural light. It was a normal everyday scene. He spent a lot of time on it, but the critics did not like it. He became depressed and was also out of money. War broke out in France in 1870 and Claude moved with his new wife, Camille, to London. There he met art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel who would become one of his strongest supporters. At this time Monet began to study the relation of the city of London to the River Thames. Monet became friends with several of the leading artists of the time including Pierre Renoir, Edouard Manet, and Camille Pissarro. Together they formed the Society of Anonymous Painters, Sculptors, and Printers. They wanted to experiment with art and not do the same classical art that satisfied the art critics of Paris. After the Society’s art exhibition in 1874, a critic insultingly dubbed Monet’s painting style “Impression,” since it was more concerned with form and light than realism, and the term stuck. Monet struggled with depression, poverty and illness throughout his life. He died in 1926.
Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe/Lunch on the Grass
Monet’s Luncheon on the Grass from the nineteenth century made particularly prevalent the trend from the seventeenth-century Dutch still-life, which offers a different world – one that is sensual and private. It makes the viewer comfortable, brings him down to earth and puts him in front of the food. Aristocratic meals gradually became much more informal and the Dutch still-life participates in that same tendency in the representation of food. Its viewer-as-diner implication led to numerous later visions of easy dining with the personal participation of the spectator.
In the painting we can observe fine ladies and gentlemen, clearly of a high class enjoying their luncheon on the grass. In the foreground, the first thing we observe is the food, neatly laid out on a blanket as well as the people themselves, who have gathered around it – some standing and chatting while others already sitting on the grass around the makeshift table. In the background one can almost clearly make out a birch tree forest, thus showing to the spectator that this luncheon is in fact being held outdoors and perhaps even outside city limits. Monet has masterfully manipulated the colour scheme – the people standing on the left-hand side as well as the cloth blanket and food are painted with quite lighter colours than the people on the opposite, right-hand side, who are sitting and standing in the shade, provided by the birch trees. Even though cool colours dominate the better half of the painting, it gives off a vibe of calmness and tranquillity and makes the viewer feel peaceful.
Most common dishes of the 19th century
- Salmon salad
- Capon à la braise
- Red cabbage with apples
- Red cabbage with apples and apple syrup
1 red cabbage (after paring about 2.25 pounds/1 kilo)
3 tart apples
3 Tbsp thick apple syrup or molasses
about 1/2 cup vinegar (from cider or wine, or use neutral vinegar)
3/4 cup (2 deciliter) water
pepper to taste
A large dash of nutmeg, freshly grated
optionally some cornflour or other starch
salt to taste (added after cooking)
Preparation in advance
Cut the head in four parts, remove the white stem. Shred the cabbage or cut in thin strips, and rinse.
Core the apples and chop them in large pieces. Whether you leave them with skin or peel them is up to you.
Put everything except cornflour and salt in a pan. Bring to a boil, put a lid on it, and lower the heat. Let it simmer for at least an hour and a half on very low heat. If you want to, you can thicken the remaining liquid with cornflour or some other starch. Salt is added after cooking. Salt will lessen the reddening effect of the vinegar.
Red cabbage with apples is delicious with Hachee (a Dutch beef stew) and all kinds of dishes with game (like this pepper sauce), and particularly hare.
This dish will keep at least three days in the refrigerator, and can be reheated or frozen quite well.
- Capon à la braise with caper sauce
1 poularde, rubbed with salt
To do the braising
150 gram (1/3 pound) lard or bacon in 6 slices
some extra, thin slices bacon
100 gram (1/2 cup) chopped suet
15 black peppercorns
5 slices of ginger root
1 onion, sliced
some sprigs of estragon
some roots of parsley
some chicken broth (optional)
To make the sauce
40 gram (2 1/2 Tbsp.) butter or chicken-dripping
40 gram (1/3 cup) flour
1/2 litre (2 cups/1 pint) chicken broth
lemon peel, white pepper, 3 cloves, 1 bay leaf
2 finely chopped shallots
100 gram (1/2 cup) capers with the vinegar
1 decilitre (1/2 cup) white wine
pinch of ground mace
2 egg yolks
small lump of cold butter
The mixture on the bottom of the pan: lard, suet, herbs and spices
The chicken à la braise, ready for the oven
Preparation in advance
Cover the bottom of a heavy casserole with a layer of thick slices of bacon or lard. Cover this with the suet, herbs and spices. Place the chicken on top of this, and cover the bird with thin slices of bacon (optional). Close the lid, continue with the recipe or keep in the refrigerator until you are ready.
Simmer the broth for the sauce with lemon peel, pepper, cloves and bay leafs for twenty minutes. Strain the liquid.
Braise the chicken – Place the casserole on a slow fire to melt the fat, then put it in the oven (150 dg C/300 F). Let the chicken simmer for an hour to 90 minutes, basting it now and then with the melted fat. If the contents of the casserole are too dry, add some chicken broth.
Prepare the sauce – Make a roux: melt the butter, or use three tablespoons of the dripping fat of the chicken (only when no broth was added). Sauté the shallots, add the flour in one go. Stir with a flat wooden spatula, let simmer on a very slow fire for five minutes. Keep stirring. Now add the strained broth, starting with a small amount. Keep stirring until all the liquid has been absorbed by the roux. Add the next amount of liquid when the roux starts bubbling again (keep stirring …). When all the broth is used, add wine, mace, capers and caper liquid.
This is the sauce. ‘’Henriette David’’ is made a more luxurious sauce by finishing it off with two egg yolks and some cold butter. The yolks are mixed with a little of the warm sauce. Then more sauce is added, until the yolks are warm them. Then you can add them to the sauce without danger of curdling. Keep the sauce from boiling, for then it will curdle after all. The cold butter stirred in gives the sauce a nice velvety shine.
On the plate the white meat of chicken, caper sauce, pommes duchesses and kale.
Remove the chicken from the casserole, remove the bacon from the bird. Have a nice serving dish ready to put the chicken on. Surround it with slices of lemon and/or lime. Show it to your guests at the dinner-table, then take it back to the kitchen to cut the chicken in portions. Arrange the chicken pieces on the serving-dish and pour some sauce over them. Use a saucier for the rest of the sauce.
In the nineteenth century the capon was cut at the table by the host. To know how to cut various kinds of roasts, fowl et cetera was part of a gentleman’s education, just as tossing the salad in front of the guests belonged to the expertise of the lady of the house.
If you want to prepare a real capon, you have to double the other ingredients, and put the bird into the oven for one and a half to two and a half hours (depending on the weight of the beast). However, a quality, free range chicken will taste just as well.