In honor of Thanksgiving, I would like to share my research on five famous, beloved artists, and the regular feasts that fueled their work.
Erik Satie comments in his “A Day in the Life of a Musician” that “I can only eat white foods: eggs, sugar, scraped bones, fat from dead animals, veal, salt, coconuts, chicken cooked in white water, rice, turnips, things like pasta, white cheese, cotton salad and certain fish.”
I am not sure what cotton salad is, but based on the rest of his list, I am assuming it is unappealing. He did write beautiful music though; I am surprised that a composer who created such tonally rich music would prefer such insipid food.
At various points in his life, Lord Byron struggled to keep himself thin, and he resorted to various odd weight loss practices, including taking large amounts of magnesium after dinner, and sometimes living on only potatoes boiled in vinegar. Perhaps he was right that vinegar aided digestion—I have seen various diets popular today that proclaim that vinegar assists weight loss —but to me, the idea of half of my diet consisting of vinegar sounds off-putting and too acidic for the taste buds and the stomach!
Walt Whitman supposedly ate meat and oysters for breakfast everyday, in the hope this meal would clear his mind for writing. However, he wrote in his notebooks recipes for doughnuts and coffee cakes, suggesting he preferred a sweeter start to his day.
The writer, philosopher, and historian Friedrich Schiller was supported by the olfactory diet of rotting apples left in his writing desk drawers. His wife Charlotte attested that he “could not live or work” without this smell.
Sylvia Plath greatly enjoyed cooking, and one of her favorite recipes was tomato-soup cake. I suppose this cake is healthier than most, due to the Lycopene in the tomatoes…
Tomato soup cake à la Sylvia Plath
Recipe from www.theguardian.com/books/2003/feb/15/fiction.sylviaplath.
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup seedless raisins
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 can (about 11 fluid ounces) condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
Preheat the oven to 375F (190C/gas mark 5). Grease and flour two eight-inch cake pans.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices together. In a separate bowl, toss the raisins with about a quarter cup of the flour mixture and set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light, then beat in the whole eggs until thoroughly mixed.
To the creamed sugar/butter mixture, add the flour alternately with the soup by thirds. Fold in the raisins and the walnuts, if using.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake pans and then bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean once removed. Leave to cool in the pans for five minutes, then transfer to a cake rack to cool thoroughly. Frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream cheese frosting
1lb cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 pinch salt
5 cups confectioner’s sugar
Combine the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl, and beat together until creamy and uniform. Add the vanilla and the salt, and then gradually add the confectioner’s sugar, beating until smooth.
It is certainly a creative recipe.
Though I am not hoping for any of these foods as part of Thursday’s celebrations, I appreciate that these artists were inspired by their unique culinary muses, and I am thankful for the work they produced that still moves people today.
I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.