The picture below is my response to an irresistible challenge initiated by the highly original and accomplished artist, Susan Sanford of Art Spark Theatre fame. Susan’s challenge was to complete her drawing seen here, and then to link back to her site when done. Do whizz over to Art Spark Theatre to see other participant’s entries, or to take up the challenge yourselves!
My mother gave me this Penguin edition back in 1978. Incidentally, it contains a recipe for Hashish Fudge ("obtaining the cannabis may present certain difficulties..."). The cover is a painting by Matisse.
Originally published in 1954, the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book is a culinary memoir of Stein and Toklas’ life together, from the salon years, hosting the era’s artistic and literary elite in their famous Paris apartment at 27 Rue de Fleurus, through to the years when France was occupied by the Nazis.
Toklas's rich mixture of menus and memories of meals shared with such famous friends as Wilder, Picasso and Hemingway is truly a literary and culinary treasure. I love it, and I’m sure you would too!
Here, with an amusing except from the book, is what I made for supper with friends last night:
Chapter 4 – Murder in the Kitchen
“Many times I held the thought to kill a stupid or obstinate cook, but as long as the thought was held, murder was not committed. Then a gay and enchanting Austrian came to cook for Gertrude Stein and me. He was a perfect cook. Quietly and expeditiously Kasper, as I shall call him, prepared the most intricate and complicated dishes for us, nothing was too much trouble for him to undertake. He would make us ice cream in individual moulds in the form of eggs on a nest of coloured spun sugar. He delighted in making cakes that represented objects appropriate to each person; a book for Gertrude Stein, a rose for Sir Francis Rose, a peacock for a very vain young artist and a little dog for me. He used to receive the visits of an extremely pretty young girl, Lili, who looked as if she had stepped out of an Offenbach opera. Gertrude Stein and I were delighted with them……
Gradually Kasper began to confide in me. Life was not as happy for him has it had been. In the beginning there was only his fiancé Lili, his angel, but now there was a second, a she-devil, who wanted him to marry her and who was threatening to kill him if he didn’t. He continued to cook most desirably despite his torment…..
One afternoon as Gertrude Stein and I were coming home, someone came out of our front door and passed in the courtyard. She had small snappy dark eyes. “The devil?” Gertrude Stein enquired. “Presumably,” I answered.”
To cut a long and rather pedantic (but very amusing) story short, Kasper continued to see his devil-woman at the same time as wooing Lili, but gradually the deception drove him to drink and “a resultant madness”. Alice and Gertrude were no longer able enjoy his perfect culinary skills so rather than murdering him, Alice paid him his wages and summarily dismissed him. The last meal he cooked for them before his alcoholic downfall was the justly famous Gypsy Goulash. Here, for your edification and delight, is Miss Toklas’ recipe. (It is truly scrumptious, believe me. You’ll be dancing a wild fandango after eating this!)
1 ½ lb. fillet of beef in slices of ¼ inch thickness, cut in lengths of ¼ inch width, brown in lard* with ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon paprika, and 1 tablespoon flour, 4 large onions sliced, ¾ lb. potatoes sliced. When the beef is lightly browned add 2 cups red wine, 1 cup sour cream, and enough bouillon to cover. Put in a covered casserole in 375ْ oven for 1 hour. Add ½ cup sour cream before serving. Serve with noodles. Serves 4. (*a little unsalted butter may be better for your heath! T xx)
A peppery salad of rocket (arugula), baby spinach leaves, baby tomatoes and pine nuts lightly dressed with a squirt of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sea salt, a good drizzle of olive oil and a shave of parmesan goes beautifully with this hearty, soul warming dish.