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The MoMA Cookbook: Vintage Recipes and Reflections on Food by Salvador Dalí, Louise Bourgeois, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, and Other Great Artists

From Dalí’s red salad to Warhol’s cream of tomato soup.

The MoMA Cookbook: Vintage Recipes and Reflections on Food by Salvador Dalí, Louise Bourgeois, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, and Other Great Artists

“Art is a form of nourishment,” Susan Sontag wrote in her diary. This, perhaps, is why the relationship between art and nourishment has such a long history of transcending the metaphorical, from the cuisine of Futurism to Liberace’s cookbook to the meals of famous fiction.

In 1977, decades before The Modern Art Cookbook made its debut, a pair of art and cuisine enthusiasts, Madeleine Conway and Nancy Kirk, collaborated with New York’s MoMA on The Museum of Modern Art Artists’ Cookbook (public library) — a marvelous compendium of favorite recipes and reflections on food by thirty of the era’s most prominent artists, including Salvador Dalí, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Indiana, Will Barnett, Larry Rivers, Andy Warhol, and Willem de Kooning.

Art from Salvador Dalí’s Les Diners de Gala

Salvador Dalí, who had published his own elaborate erotic cookbook four years earlier, tells Conway and Kirk:

It is important to me to eat only everything that is in season.

The editors explain:

Dalí works every day in the year. He does not have time to entertain as much as he would like, but when he does, he has dinners for twenty to twenty-five friends. His table is always exquisitely presented and always white — white porcelain, white damask, and white flowers in crystal vases.

Onto this pristine canvas Dalí serves splashes of edible color:

RED SALAD

Serves 4 for lunch, or 8 as a first course

8 ounces red beets, diced
8 ounces smoked tongue, diced
12 ounces red cabbage, finely grated
5 tablespoons heavy cream, chilled
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 shallot, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
cayenne pepper to taste
salt to taste
Iceberg lettuce leaves

Combine cream, tomato paste, sugar, shallot, and pepper. beat with a whisk until mixture is light and foamy, about 3 minutes. Slowly beat in lemon juice. Place beets, cabbage, and tongue in a bowl. Add dressing and mix well. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours. Add sat and pepper to taste. Serve on a bed of lettuce.

Note: Serve with hot French bread and a light red wine on the day it is made.

Portrait of Louise Bourgeois by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Louise Bourgeois, who was to have her first retrospective at the MoMA five years later but was already one of the most acclaimed and influential artists of the twentieth century, reminds us of how intertwined the history of food is with the history of gender inequality:

I was told as a child in France that cooking is the way to a man’s heart. Today I know that the notion is absurd, but I believed it for a very long time. My mother was in delicate health and could not cope with long hours of work in the kitchen. To please her I took on the responsibility of seeing to it that my father had dinner. It wasn’t easy. He often came home very late. I wanted for hours to make sure that the food stayed hot and fresh — and I became expert at just that. When my father appeared and wanted a steak, I cooked it for him. In those days a man had the right to have his food ready for him at all times. 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.

And yet Bourgeois didn’t give up cooking altogether — far from it. Boasting that she owns eight pressure cookers and is “prepared to feed as many as fifteen people at a moment’s notice,” she tells Conway and Kirk that she holds elaborate dinners for her friends on Saturday nights, in the lull between the time art galleries close and the time the jazz clubs open.

Among her favorite recipes is this simple, inventive delight, which Bourgeois serves as a first course with hot French bread:

FRENCH CUCUMBER SALAD

Serves 4

Salad:

6 cucumbers, peeled
sat

Vinaigrette sauce:

6 tablespoons olive oil
2 ½ tablespoons tarragon vinegar
½ teaspoon tarragon
salt and pepper
chopped chives or green scallions

Peel cucumbers lengthwise with carrot peeler. Place a layer of cucumber slivers in a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat until all slivers are used. Add a final layer of salt. Cover and refrigerate 12 hours. Drain and wash under cold running water. Dry on towels. Make dressing. Beat oil, vinegar, tarragon, salt, and pepper with a whisk. Pour over cucumbers. Toss. Sprinkle with chives or scallions and serve.

Portrait of Andy Warhol by Jack Mitchell

Andy Warhol, who had collaborated with his mother on a little-known and lovely cookbook eighteen years earlier, tells Conway and Kirk that he no longer eats anything out of a can but — a statement that comically dates the book and tragically reminds us of a culinary downturn — believes that “airplane food is the best food.”

In a confession that reminds us just how much Warhol blurred the line between person and persona, just how deliberate he was about the construction of his own myth — this, after all, is such a thoroughly Andy Warhol thing to say — he tells the editors:

I always thought cereals like corn flakes and Rice Krispies were a natural thing — that they came from a cereal bush.

He shares a befittingly on-brand recipe:

CAMPBELL’S MILK OF TOMATO SOUP

a 10 ¾ can Campbell’s condensed tomato soup
2 cans milk

In a saucepan bring soup and two cans milk to a boil; stir. Serve.

Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning, in his early seventies at the time, looks back on how his formative years in Holland and his immigrant experience shaped his relationship to food:

It was hard to overeat when I was a boy because when you had dinner, it was always brown beans. We were poor. When I came to America I had never seen so much food in my life! I came to America as stowaway. When I was discovered among the pipes, I became a kind of cabin boy and washed the decks. I got off when we landed in Boston and took a train to New York. I went right to Wall Street. I recognized from the silent movies where the Stock Exchange was.

We went to Hoboken because it was a Dutch, Italian, and German settlement. I got a room, and I got a job as a house painter; America seems to be a land of wonder because, you see, I worked and I made six dollars a day. Then I made nine dollars. In one week I could buy a suit, Thom McAn shoes, sets of underwear. Socks were ten cents a pair and it almost didn’t pay to wash them. You could throw them away! This was such a revelation, such an overflow! Here, everything was so big and had such a style I said, “Oh, hallelujah, here I come.”

The first food I remember eating? A hamburger. Lunchtime I went to a place on River Street and I saw on the bill of fare that I could read “Hamburger,” so I said, “Hamburger. The next day I took a hamburger and on the following day I took a hamburger, and then I thought I change and ordered a sirloin of beef and I tried to say it but the waiter gave me hamburger anyway.

Even as he rose to fame in the art world, De Kooning retained this capacity for delight in the simplest of things and cared little for the snobbish charade of sophistication that all too often bedevils high society. More than half a century after the hamburger experience, he shares his favorite unfussy dressing for cold shrimp, lobster, or crabmeat, made with ingredients one could buy at the most rudimentary convenience store:

KOO’S SEAFOOD SAUCE

Makes 2 ½ cups

8 ounces heavy cream, whipped until stiff
8 ounces mayonnaise
1 ounce cognac
1 ounce sherry
4 tablespoons ketchup
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl fold mayonnaise gently into the whipped cream with a whisk. Add remaining ingredients and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve.

Complement The Museum of Modern Art Artists’ Cookbook with Patti Smith’s lettuce soup recipe for starving artists, another out-of-print vintage treat titled The Artists & Writers Cookbook, and these delectable modern art desserts inspired by some of humanity’s greatest artists.

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André Gide on Growing Happier as We Grow Older and Using Death as a Mobilizing Force for Creative Work

“Age cannot manage to empty either sensual pleasure of its attractiveness or the whole world of its charm.”

“There is, after all, something eternal that lies beyond the hand of fate and of all human delusions,” Albert Einstein wrote in his beautiful letter to the Queen of Belgium, “and such eternals lie closer to an older person than to a younger one oscillating between fear and hope. For us, there remains the privilege of experiencing beauty and truth in their purest forms.” But is it a cruel paradox or a heartening comfort that the closer we inch to death, the fuller of life’s beauty and truth we become?

That’s what the great French writer André Gide (November 22, 1869–February 19, 1951) considers in three particularly piercing entries from the altogether revelatory Journals of André Gide (public library) — the most cherished of young Susan Sontag’s favorite books, and the source of Gide’s enduring wisdom on the paradox of originality, the vital balance of freedom and restraint, and what it really means to be yourself.

In an entry from the fall of 1917, 48-year-old Gide echoes George Eliot’s reflections on aging and the life-cycle of happiness and writes:

Age cannot manage to empty either sensual pleasure of its attractiveness or the whole world of its charm. On the contrary, I was more easily disgusted at twenty, and I was less satisfied with life. I embraced less boldly; I breathed less deeply; and I felt myself to be less loved. Perhaps also I longed to be melancholy; I had not yet understood the superior beauty of happiness.

Two weeks later, Gide examines the passage of time from another angle — one grimmer at first blush but deeply enlivening in its ultimate reorientation:

The thought of death pursues me with a strange insistence. Every time I make a gesture, I calculate: how many times already? I compute: how many times more? and full of despair, I feel the turn of the year rushing toward me. And as I measure how the water is withdrawing around me, my thirst increases and I feel younger in proportion to the little time that remains to me to feel it.

Art from The Magic Box, a vintage children’s book for grownups about life, death, and how to be more alive each day

Two days later, Gide revisits his thoughts and considers how the finitude of our existence can become a mobilizing creative force:

The above lines will seem prophetic if I am to die in a short while; but I shall be really ashamed if it is given to me to reread them fifteen years from now. If I could simply not know or forget my age, how little I should be aware of it! I ought never to remind myself of it except to urge myself to work.

As it happens, Gide lived not a mere fifteen years thereafter but more than twice as long. And his psychological ju-jitsu of using the accelerating imminence of death as a motivational catalyst for good work clearly worked — he became one of the most prolific and psychologically perceptive authors in modern history, producing an astonishing array of novels, stories, plays, and autobiographical writings, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947 “for his comprehensive and artistically significant writings” full of “fearless love of truth and keen psychological insight.”

Complement this particular fragment of the wholly magnificent Journals of André Gide with Grace Paley on the art of growing older, Oliver Sacks on the measure of living, and artist Candy Chang’s Before I Die project, a visual counterpart to the sentiment at the heart of Gide’s reflections.

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Harvard Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy on Mastering the Antidote to Anxiety, Self-Consciousness, and Impostor Syndrome

“Before we even show up at the doorstep of an opportunity, we are teeming with dread and anxiety, borrowing trouble from a future that hasn’t yet unfolded.”

Harvard Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy on Mastering the Antidote to Anxiety, Self-Consciousness, and Impostor Syndrome

“We know that we live in contradiction,” Albert Camus wrote in his magnificent meditation on strength of character, “but we also know that we must refuse this contradiction and do what is needed to reduce it.” One of the most pervasive and perennial contradictions pulling the human spirit asunder is our yearning for greatness, which coexists with our chronic propensity for self-doubt.

How to reduce that abiding contradiction is what social psychologist, researcher, and Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy explores in Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (public library) — a potent antidote to one of the most common yet secretive and stigmatic maladies of modern life: impostor syndrome.

At the heart of Cuddy’s research is the idea that the opposite of powerlessness, that ultimate fuel of impostor syndrome, isn’t power but what she terms presence — the ability to inhabit and trust the integrity of one’s own values, feelings, and capabilities. This capacity for presence is the seedbed of the confidence, courage, and resilience required to rise to even the most daunting of life’s challenges.

Art by Lisbeth Zwerger from a rare edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Art by Lisbeth Zwerger from a special edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Let’s make one thing clear: Although Cuddy’s work deals in terms that have been hijacked by New-Agism and worn thin of meaning by the self help movement, it’s a far cry from both. Instead, she fuses the rigor of a researcher befitting one of the world’s finest universities with the raw empathic insight that springs from uncommonly trying personal experience.

When she was a college sophomore, Cuddy was in a brutal car accident in which she sustained a fractured skull and a diffuse axonal injury, or DAI — a traumatic brain injury that damages the brain’s neural tissues and connective wiring, significantly slowing down the speed at which information travels. Unlike area-specific injuries that might affect concrete functions like language or motor ability, DAI rattles the entire brain and disfigures the most elemental ways in which you think, feel, behave, and interact, leaving you, as Cuddy puts it, a different person. Doctors declared her cognitively unfit to finish college and her IQ dropped thirty points, or two standard deviations. She was told that, in every measurable way, she was no longer smart.

Art from Neurocomic, a graphic novel about how the brain works

Despite rounds of cognitive therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and psychological counseling, Cuddy slipped further and further from herself. She reflects:

Our way of thinking, our intellect, our affect, our personality — these aren’t things we expect will ever change. We take them for granted. We fear having an accident that will make us paralyzed, change our ability to move around, or cause us to lose our hearing or sight. But we don’t think about having an accident that will cause us to lose ourselves.

For many years after the head injury, I was trying to pass as my former self… although I didn’t really know who that former self was. I felt like an impostor, an impostor in my own body.

But, propelled by the parallel redemptive forces of tenacity and the passage of time, Cuddy was able to slowly regain her cognitive ability, began studying psychology, and eventually became a social psychologist researching the interrelated phenomena she had collided with and tussled with and danced with on her own journey — confidence and self-doubt, the relationship between identity and the intellect, the central role of presence in our sense of power.

In 2012, she delivered a TED talk that spread across the globe like wildfire — an unexpected testament to just how deeply these questions affect people of every walk of life.

The astonishing response to her talk — which was viewed more than 30 million times and became the second most watched TED talk of all time — catalyzed Cuddy’s further research into the psychological machinery of presence, a quality strangely elusive of a definition yet unmistakable when we feel it and unmistakably aggrieving when we feel its absence. She illustrates the latter with an instructive historical anecdote:

Eighteenth-century French philosopher and writer Denis Diderot was at a dinner party, engaged in debate over a topic that he knew well. But perhaps he wasn’t himself on that evening — a bit self-conscious, distracted, worried about looking foolish. When challenged on some point, Diderot found himself at a loss for words, incapable of cobbling together a clever response. Soon after, he left the party.

Once outside, on his way down the staircase, Diderot continued to replay that humiliating moment in his mind, searching in vain for the perfect retort. Just as he reached the bottom of the stairs, he found it. Should he turn around, walk back up the stairs, and return to the party to deliver his witty comeback? Of course not. It was too late. The moment — and, with it, the opportunity — had passed. Regret washed over him. If only he’d had the presence of mind to find those words when he needed them.

Reflecting on this experience in 1773, Diderot wrote, “A sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument leveled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs.”

And so he coined the phrase l’esprit d’escalier — the spirit of the stairs, or staircase wit. In Yiddish it’s trepverter. Germans call it treppenwitz. It’s been called elevator wit [or] afterwit. But the idea is the same — it’s the incisive remark you come up with too late. It’s the hindered comeback. The orphaned retort. And it carries with it a sense of regret, disappointment, humiliation. We all want a do-over. But we’ll never get one.

[…]

Most of us have our own personal version of this experience. After interviewing for a job, auditioning for a role, going on a date, pitching an idea, speaking up in a meeting or in class, arguing with someone at a dinner party.

But how did we get there? We probably were worrying what others would think of us, but believing we already knew what they thought; feeling powerless, and also consenting to that feeling; clinging to the outcome and attributing far too much importance to it instead of focusing on the process. These worries coalesce into a toxic cocktail of self-defeat. That’s how we got there. Before we even show up at the doorstep of an opportunity, we are teeming with dread and anxiety, borrowing trouble from a future that hasn’t yet unfolded.

Art by Lisbeth Zwerger from a special edition of Alice in Wonderland

This, Cuddy notes, invariably leaves us with a sunken spirit, which in turn prevents us from showing up for any interaction with our whole, unselfconscious selves. (It’s worth pointing out that such self-defeating tendencies bedevil even the most outwardly successful, even those we deem geniuses — take, for instance, the excruciating self-doubt and self-flagellation permeating John Steinbeck’s diaries.)

The counterpoint to this paralyzing self-consciousness, Cuddy argues, is the quality of presence — an ability to project poised confidence, passion, and enthusiasm in high-pressure situations, which can’t be easily faked but can be deliberately cultivated.

She writes:

The ideal effect of presence [is that] you execute with comfortable confidence and synchrony, and you leave with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, regardless of the measurable outcome.

To be clear, Cuddy’s work on presence isn’t about making you a more confident public speaker or a more persuasive negotiator or a more compelling interviewee — although its application does very much effect these surface outcomes; it’s about a much larger and more expansive dimension of our personhood, exploring the deepest layers of what we experience as our identity and equipping us with the ability to attune to and articulate those dimensions.

How to do that is what Cuddy examines in the remainder of Presence, using a social psychologist’s lens to synthesize and integrate insights from fields ranging from behavioral economics to Eastern philosophy to neuroscience. Complement it with Brené Brown on cultivating the qualities resilient people have in common and Parker Palmer on how to stop hiding your soul.

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