Monet's Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet


One of the most influential painters of modern times, Claude Monet lived for half his life in the famous house at Giverny. It was after moving here in 1883 with his future second wife, Alice Hoschedé, and their eight children that Monet's work finally achieved recognition. His growing success meant that he was able to indulge his passion for comfort and good living.

Family meals, special celebrations, luncheons with friends, picnics: all reflected the Monets' love of good food. ...

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One of the most influential painters of modern times, Claude Monet lived for half his life in the famous house at Giverny. It was after moving here in 1883 with his future second wife, Alice Hoschedé, and their eight children that Monet's work finally achieved recognition. His growing success meant that he was able to indulge his passion for comfort and good living.

Family meals, special celebrations, luncheons with friends, picnics: all reflected the Monets' love of good food. Just as the inspiration for many of Monet's paintings was drawn from his beloved gardens and the surrounding Normandy landscape, so the meals served at Giverny were based upon superb ingredients from the kitchen-garden (a work of art in itself), the farmyard, and the French countryside.

A moody, reserved, and very private man whose daily routine revolved totally around his painting, Monet nevertheless enjoyed entertaining his friends, many of whom were leading figures of the time. As well as his fellow Impressionists — in particular Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Degas and Cézanne — other regular guests included Rodin, Whistler, Maupassant, Valéry, and one of Monet's closest friends, the statesman Clemenceau.

They came to dine in almost ritual form, first visiting Monet's studio and the greenhouses, then having lunch at 11:30 (the time the family always dined, to enable Monet to make the most of the afternoon light). Tea would later be served under the lime trees or near the pond. Guests were never invited to dinner; because Monet went to bed very early in order to rise at dawn. All the guests were familiar with Monet's rigid timetable.

The recipes collected in his cookingjournals include dishes Monet had encountered in his travels or had come across in restaurants he frequented in Paris as well as recipes from friends, such as Cézanne's bouillabaisse and Millet's petits pains.

For this book, the author Claire Joyes, wife of Madame Monet's great-grandson, has spent years selecting the Monets' favorite recipes and writing a wonderfully evocative introductory text. All of the recipes have been artfully prepared and brought back to life in Monet's own kitchen by master chef Joël Robuchon.

Illustrated with sumptuous reproductions of Monet's paintings, spectacular original four-color photographs of Giverny, selected shots of finished dishes, and facsimile pages from the notebooks themselves, this book provides a fascinating and unique insight into the turn-of-the-century lifestyle of one of the world's most celebrated Impressionist painters.

The most beautiful cookbook of the decade--and a unique look into the private life of the world's best-loved Impressionist painter--offers readers more than 160 of Monet's best-loved dishes, from Cezanne's bouillabaisse to banana ice cream. 90 4-color and 10 black-and-white photographs.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This beautifully packaged book is a rare treat for admirers of Monet, especially those who have any interest in cooking. Joyes, author of other works on Monet and the wife of Mme. Monet's great-grandson, provides background on life at Giverny; Joel Robuchon, one of France's top chefs, tested the recipes; Naudin contributed stunning photographs of Monet's house and garden; and there are reproductions of many of the artist's works, as well as pages from his cooking journals. The recipes themselves are generally for typical French country food, though there is celebration fare here, too. Unusual, and a treasure.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416541318
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 12/12/2006
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Claire Joyes has written several books about Claude Monet, and in this book she has created a richly detailed picture of Monet's private world. She and her husband, Jean-Marie Toulgouat, Madame Monet's great-grandson, live at Giverny and were closely involved in the faithful restoration of the gardens, which are now open to the public.
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Table of Contents




A Turn of the Century Table

The development of Monet's cuisine

The Rotunda Drawing Room

The Hoschedés and Château de Rottenbourg


Pride of Place

Creating a home and a retreat from the world

Florimond's Kitchen-Garden

Imposing order upon nature, for the benefit of the table


The Family Table

Domestic life and the daily routine

Picnics and Celebration Lunches

Rituals to celebrate the rhythm of the seasons

Birds of Passage

Family excursions and special visitors


Soups -- Eggs -- Sauces -- Appetizers and Side Dishes -- Poultry -- Meat -- Game -- Fish -- Desserts -- Teas -- Jams -- Preserves




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First Chapter

Chapter 1

The Taste of an Era

A Turn of the Century Table

February 4, 1884.
Tasted a banana for the first time in my life,
I won't do it again until purgatory.


If a house has character, the fact is obvious immediately. Claude Monet's house at Giverny certainly did, down to the smallest details of its kitchen. With its essentially bourgeois character, this house and its large, walled garden became for Monet a perfect haven. It was his own separate world, from which he drew continual inspiration for over 40 years.

Monet always retained the predilection for over-indulgence that was characteristic of the French middle class at this period, and Giverny provided a place where he could enjoy his taste for the good life to the full. This instinctive, physical enjoyment of life was also the basis for Monet's painting. For him, painting was never applied theory -- it was a practical reality. Heedless of references to the past, he lived for the present; he was very much a man of his times.

Monet's cooking journals do contain a few faint traces of unconscious nostalgia, a flavor of the Restoration or the Second Empire, which, of course, was recent history in those days. Yet the journals mostly contain innovations of the Third Republic, combined with a few old favorites, and seasoned with those exotic touches people have craved since ships conquered the spice route on the high seas.

Eating well was something to which Monet had always been accustomed. There is little information available about the meals that were eaten in the family home in Le Havre, where he spent most ofhis childhood. By all accounts, his boyhood was spent in bourgeois comfort. His father was in business as a supplier to the navy, and his mother is supposed to have been an excellent hostess and to have entertained her guests with after-dinner songs, as she had a very pretty voice. Monet was less than 20 years old when she disappeared, and all the memories of the rituals of Le Havre faded into oblivion with her.

In 1860, Monet drew an unlucky number in the lottery for selective military service and served with the Chasseurs d'Afrique regiment in Algeria. The landscape and light did not prove too harsh for his liking, and, in fact, he claimed that Algeria inspired the earliest of his visual impressions. Yet he never discussed the food he ate there. It is impossible to believe that he never tasted and enjoyed that aromatic cuisine, simmered in earthenware pots on rudimentary little hearths, those delicious dishes so skillfully cooked over charcoal.

Monet was only 20 when he went to North Africa, but he had already held exhibitions of his works and he had established friendships with Boudin, Pissarro, Cézanne, Courbet, and a number of other young men who were destined to become leading figures in the arts in the coming years.

After his return from Algeria in 1862, Monet began to work with Boudin, Jongkind, Renoir, Bazille, and Sisley. His rebellion against the art establishment was becoming apparent, and his family responded to his seeming intransigence by cutting off his allowance. Poverty began to bite, as he had as yet very little income from his work. But though accustomed to a degree of comfort, and passionate about his food, Monet was prepared to make any sacrifice, undergo any discomfort for the sake of his art.

It was at about this time, in the mid 1860s, that Monet painted Camille Doncieux. They began living together, had a child, Jean, and married in 1870. With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, Monet went to England, where he was influenced by the paintings of Turner and Constable, and where he developed a taste for a number of English dishes. He returned to France the following year, via the Netherlands, discovering more dishes that were to remain firm favorites.

In 1871, Monet, Camille and Jean settled in Argenteuil, a village on the Seine near Paris, famous for its boating. They remained there for six years. This marked a turning point in Monet's life, the restless, poverty-stricken bohemian existence of the previous decade being replaced by stability and relative comfort. Though always short of cash and continually in debt, Monet had actually begun to earn a reasonable living from his paintings. He acquired a sailboat, which he used as a studio for painting trips on the river, pursuing his fascination with water. It was at the charming, vine-covered cottage in Argenteuil that Monet created his first garden, reflecting his lifelong delight in flowers. Here, too, no doubt, he was able to indulge his other great passion, food.

1874 was another landmark in Monet's life, when Monet and his friends, including Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Degas, and Berthe Morisot, staged their first group exhibition. In all, there were 165 canvases from about 30 artists. The uniformly hostile reaction of the press, who christened the group "Impressionists," was a clear indication of the resistance the new movement would encounter over the coming years.

From 1878 through 1881, Monet rented a house at Vétheuil, further down the Seine, about 40 miles from Paris. Camille was by this time very ill. Monet, Camille, Jean, and their second son, Michel, shared the house with Alice Hoschedé and her six children; Alice and her husband, former patrons of Monet, had recently been financially ruined and had separated. Following the death of Camille in 1879, the family lived as one, and Alice Hoschedé became Monet's second wife in 1892, after her estranged husband's death.

In his continuous struggle to impose his painting style, Monet was inhibited by the ever-present financial worries and the frustrating absence of a space large enough for him to work in comfortably. It was only at Giverny, which he discovered in 1883, that Monet was able to establish the lifestyle that really suited him. It was here that his ideas about food took shape, and Alice Hoschedé was to be their principal interpreter. Between them, Monet and Alice created their own art of living, something that today would be called style.

Their sole culinary ambition was to serve beautifully prepared dishes using whatever the kitchen-garden or the farmyard could supply. This was their food, homemade but often making use of recipes invented by the great restaurants they patronized, or even dishes created by their friends, who included writers, art collectors, painters and actors.

Many of the dishes can, of course, be found in other cookbooks, but the recipe for the Monets' bouillabaisse came from Paul Cézanne, the recipe for their bread rolls from Jean Millet. Their tarte Tatin was a souvenir of their visits to the Tatin sisters themselves, to sample this famous dish. Origins such as these add zest to the dishes for us today, just as they undoubtedly did for the Monets a century ago.

Monet and Alice had decided to live out of town but not actually in the provinces. The house at Giverny was not one of those lonely country houses where one can relax far from the exhausting frenzy of the big city. Their life was a charming amalgam of a deliberately simple, rustic lifestyle, with all its attendant pursuits, combined with the tolerant, but totally independent attitude to life typical of the inhabitants of a vast metropolis. It was a rural idyll in which urban values had been transposed to the countryside.

In the magnificent era of fin-de-siècle France, eating habits were still somewhat in a state of confusion; the art of good living only emerged with difficulty after much trial and error. Haute cuisine was still in its infancy, and even the compilation of menus was of recent invention.

During this period, in which France's constitution changed more frequently than her eating habits, quantity reigned supreme. A few

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