Out of all of the “Artists Table” books, i.e. Monet’s Table, Renoir’s Table, I get the impression that it was Toulouse-Lautrec who really liked to cook. He would gather friends together for sumptuous meals. Sometimes he would arrange to cook at someone else’s house.
“ A letter dated November 11, 1899 to Jacques Bizet , son of the composer,informs “ Dear Master, here is the list of fish to be obtained, Eels, (one pound), 2 gurnards, 1 hake, 1 sole, I small lobster. Seasonings: garlic, cayenne pepper, olive oil. Have all this at 5 o’clock Sunday. We will be there at 6.15 o’clock, Viaud and I. Our humble respects to Madame Bizet and to you. H.T. Lautrec. ”
I’ve read recounts of trips to summer homes in which the guests and participants wait in anticipation for Lautrec to whip out a frying pan and treat them all to an omelet or a similar fry-up. He was keen to publish a book of his own recipes, which he might have done if he hadn’t died at the age of 36. After his death, his art dealer, Maurice Joyant, found the recipes among Toulouse’s papers and had them published. Now known as 'The Art of Cuisine' by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Maurice Joyant (Holt, Rinehart and Winston), I have them on order as of today from Amazon. More to come!!
“In the winter of 1895 Alexandre Natanson asked Lautrec to organize the private view of the nine decorative panels ordered from Vuillard for their house at 60,avenue du Bois Boulogne. As master of ceremonies, Lautrec took care of every last detail, from the illustrated invitation promising “American and other drinks” to the creation of temporary rest rooms. The large drawing room was emptied of its valuable furniture and turned into the “Bar des Alexandre.”
“In front of a long mahogany counter were a few high stools on which drinkers could comfortably perch. A notice between two liqueur advertisements warned “Don’t speak to the man at the wheel,” in other words, the barman. Impassive, silent and virtually unrecognizable, with head and beard shaved,apart from two comical tiny patches, Lautrec was dressed in a white jacket and a waistcoat made out of the American flag. His assistant was, in an amusing juxtaposition, Maxime Dehomas, a colossus, nearly 6 ½ feet tall, dressed similarly in white”
“Some three hundred guests, the cream of Paris society, watched the manoeuvers of these two astonishing waiters, juggling their flasks and their shakers. A complete list of the drinks on offer would defy belief: champagne, port, aperitif wines….syrups, eaux-de vie, Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, whisky, gin…Everything Lautrec could think of was to be found there. Nor did he omit the customary cocktail snacks, hot sauces, spices, without which everything tasted bland, Worcester sauce, cloves, nutmegs, paprika, red pepper, not to mention bitters, extracted from the bark of the shrub called the angostura”
Here’s a fairly simple and innocuous recipe for Port Wine Cobbler:
½ tbsp sugar
1 liqueur glass of redcurrant syrup
2 sherry glasses of red port
Tip the sugar into a shaker. Add the syrup and the port. Fill the shaker with ice; close and shake hard. Pour into glasses and serve with long straws and fresh fruit, cherries, etc.
À votre santé!
Quotations from Toulouse-Lautrec’s Table, Genvieve Diego-Dortignac, Jean-Bernard Naudin and Andre Daugin., Random House, New York 1993