You’ve certainly heard of Claude Monet, in the gardens of his house and in his famous works as Les Nymphéas, but what many people don’t know is that for gastronomy, the painter was also a master. He liked good food and mastered the art of entertaining at the table with high quality products.
Photo: Ariane Cauderlier
Situated about an hour from Paris, Giverny nests the house where Claude Monet lived with his family and painted for 43 years. The house, colored with the painter’s own palette, was classified as a historical monument of France in 1976 and is surrounded by the incredible flower-filled gardens, lakes, canals, and bridges that inspired Monet’s work.
Claude Monet and his second wife Alice settled in the pink house with green windows in 1883, with their eight children. The couple enjoyed good food and their house was the stage for many gatherings that brought together from art merchants to politicians and artists friends, such as Renoir and Cézanne, who were frequent guests. And everyone was always greeted with good food.
Monet had a discerning palate and knew like few others how to plant and harvest the best ingredients, but he did not cook. This talent with the pot was his cook Marguerite’s, who mastered from simple to elaborate dishes. The recipes handed down by her, friends, and restaurateurs with whom Monet used to hang out were carefully written down on paper over the years in a valuable recipes notebook.
Monet’s table was exactly like his work, apparently simple but meticulous and difficult to execute. The recipes reveal not only the quality of the products and the complexity of the dishes served at the Monets’ house, but also their true art of living and welcoming.
Walking through the house and gardens, we can get an idea of the atmosphere in which these meetings took place around the good table.
The Dining Room
The dining room where Monet used to receive his guests has a vibrant yellow tone that goes from furniture, to curtains and walls decorated with prints by Japanese artists such as Hiroshige, Hokusai and Utamaro.
The table, with 12 chairs in the photo, could accommodate up to 14 diners. Monet and Alice had two china sets, both designed by Monet. The first, with Japanese motifs, was used in everyday life. On special occasions, the table was set with yellow crockery with blue edges, more sober and classic, especially when guests came from Japan and might find the excessive decoration on the crockery strange. Silver cutlery with ivory handles, embroidered white linen tablecloths and delicate crystals completed the table.
Right next to the dining room is the magnificent kitchen, lined with blue ceramic tiles from Rouen. Monet designed these colors for the kitchen to promote both contrast and harmony with the yellow in the dining room. The blue of the walls with the warmth of the copper utensils hanging on the walls and placed on the countertops and shelves give a cozy atmosphere to the room.
In the kitchen there is also a large stone sink where not only vegetables were prepared, but also the bouquets of flowers, always present on the tables. The immense and imposing wood stove is a spectacle on its own and is next to the door that gives access to the garden.
Through this door, all the products from the spectacular garden could easily reach the kitchen, where vegetables from different parts of the world were planted. Almost everything that went to the Monets’ table was produced right there, including eggs, chickens, ducks, and fish caught in nearby rivers and streams. And most importantly, each product was consumed in its season. Only rarer products came from Paris or other regions for special occasions.
For lovers of arts and savoir vivre the Monet’s House and Gardens is a must go for a one-day escape when in Paris.
To learn more…
Two amazing books reveal the secrets of Monet’s cooking and hospitality:
On Claude Monet’s Plate, Claire Joyes
The Monet Cookbook – Recipes From Giverny, Florence Gentner | Francis Hamond
Les Carnets de Cuisine de Monet, Claire Joyes
Recevoir selon Monet – Les recettes d’un maître, Florence Gentner | Francis Hamond