How to cook like Christo and Jeanne-Claude

MoMA cookbook offers 'tasty' insight into the duo's gastronomic creations but, strangely, there are no wraps
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Christo and Jeanne-Claude's inclusion in Artists' Cookbook. As featured in The Cookbook Book.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude's inclusion in Artists' Cookbook. As featured in The Cookbook Book.

Great artists are often good at other creative pursuits. Andy Warhol managed the Velvet Underground and made films; Picasso wrote plays; Yayoi Kusama wrote novels and had a nice clothing line.

Yet, when it comes to cookery, one 1977 publication suggests that art stars of the 20th century weren’t especially handy in the kitchen. 37 years ago, New York’s Museum of Modern Art published The Artists’ Cookbook, detailing the recipes and the gastronomic habits of 30 artists, including Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein and Louise Bourgeois. The title, which features in our overview, The Cookbook Book, is less a culinary primer, and more a novel way of examining the lives of the art world’s most famous.

De Kooning, who was brought up in a modest household in the Netherlands, tells the authors that he found it hard to over eat back in Europe, as all he was ever served was plate after plate of beans. Rather than offering any recipe of his own, he describes the typically Dutch breakfast his brother Koos once cooked for him, upon visiting the painter in New York. Warhol, whose perverse diet is widely documented, offers a step-by-step guide to the cooking of a can of Campbell’s condensed tomato.

 

The cover of Artists' Cookbook, as featured in The Cookbook Book
The cover of Artists' Cookbook, as featured in The Cookbook Book

Roy Lichtenstein, meanwhile, gives a somewhat misjudged, pun-dependent inclusion, with his recipe for "primordial soup," "the atmosphere that may have generated life on earth." Ingredients include 8cc hydrogen, 5cc ammonia, etc. etc. 

Among the few inclusions that might actually be of use to today’s cooks are Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s recipes. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The couple were renowned for their dinner parties, and their recipes, zucchini and garlic soup, and "quick and easy filet mignon dinner party," would satisfy an equally refined gathering today.

 

Andy Warhol - Self portrait eating banana (1982)
Andy Warhol - Self portrait eating banana (1982)

Yet for insight into the life of a starving artist, perhaps Louise Bourgeois’ inclusion is the most telling. She recalls, “during my student years I did not cook at all. The memory of those many wasted hours lingered. I subsisted on yogurt, honey, and pumpernickel bread. I still eat the same foods today.” This might not sound like much of a dietary regime, yet Bourgeois remained an important artist, right up until her death at age of 98 in 2010. Proof that a happy, productive studio might go hand-in-hand with an empty kitchen. 

For more on those Christo dinner parties, read our interview with Anthony Haden-Guest. For more on Warhol’s diet, read this. And for further insight into those book and many other intriguing gastronomic titles, buy a copy of the Cookbook Book, here.


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