Dining with Antiques – Monet’s Dishes
A postcard image from Monet’s famous bright yellow dining room. Notice the dishware on the table.
The breathtaking impressionist paintings of Claude Monet (1840-1926) have spawned a collectible industry of giant proportions. Prints, posters, coffee table books, calendars, Christmas cards, screen savers, neckties, refrigerator magnets, T-shirts, jigsaw puzzles and even napkins can be found with his artwork. And because he was also a gastronome—a lover of good food—books and documentaries have also been produced about the delicious recipes (saved in his journals) that were served at his table.
A set of Haviland & Parlon (marked Charles Field Haviland Limoges) “Monet” china. It is a replica of the china Monet himself designed for use in his house in Giverny, France.
Monet moved to the northern France municipality of Giverny in 1883. Today, visitors to his home can see not only the gardens, lily pond and arched bridge that inspired so many of his paintings, but also his blue-tiled kitchen and bright yellow dining room with matching porcelain dinnerware. Monet designed his own china in 1898. It was a one-of-a-kind set with a broad yellow rim and blue trim, produced by the now-defunct company Godin & Arhendfeld.
Monet’s self portrait.
In 1978, pieces of the set began to be recreated by Haviland & Parlon (marked Charles Field Haviland Limoges). The line can be found in various formats and is sometimes also stamped by Tiffany & Co. and the Monet Museum. Many collectors love to make entire meals based on the same recipes that Monet himself enjoyed more than 100 years ago, and serve them to friends in Monet’s dishes.
Monet had a large extended family that dined together. Lunch was the main meal at Giverny (served promptly at 11:30 a.m.) and the one to which guests might be invited. It included a hot appetizer, a meat or fish dish, hot vegetables, salad and dessert. Dinner was at 7 p.m. and soup was always served before every evening meal, followed by an egg dish, a light main course, salad and cheese.
Some of Monet’s recipes are laborious and time-consuming, although they result in fabulous French foods. (His full-time cook needed two kitchen helpers to prepare the daily meals.) The soups, however, are simpler. The Limoges china (named, appropriately, “Monet”) includes a large covered soup tureen and two types of soup bowls, so the savory soup recipes are always fun to recreate and serve. Monet’s journals include recipes for leek and potato soup, cream of sorrel soup, mixed vegetable soup (with peas, potatoes, heavy cream and iceberg lettuce), herb soup, cabbage soup with cheese, cream of turnip soup and garlic soup.
The china can still be purchased, but the cost could be prohibitive for many. Buying new, a cream soup bowl and saucer will run you $186 and a 93-ounce soup tureen will set you back a whopping $847. Finding them on the secondary market will also cost a pretty penny. A Haviland Limoges Monet coffee pot, sugar bowl and creamer is listed in the Worthopedia as having sold for $399 on eBay.
Even if you are not serving it in Monet china, the garlic soup is delicious and attractive—reminiscent of a combination of garlic bread and egg drop broth. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try a little Monet in your kitchen.
A Haviland Limoges Monet coffee pot, sugar bowl and creamer is listed in the Worthopedia.
Garlic Soup (Soupe à l’ail)
From “Monet’s Table, The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet,” 1989.
12 cloves garlic, peeled
salt and pepper
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 cups croutons
2/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
Put the garlic cloves in a pot and add 6 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil and cook until garlic is soft, about 15 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves and crush them into a smooth paste. Return this to the liquid, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool slightly.
Melt all but 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet and sauté the croutons, turning constantly until they are evenly browned. Put them in the bottom of a warmed soup tureen.
Break the eggs into a mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of the garlic liquid, beating well to avoid curdling.
Pour the egg mixture back into the pot, stirring constantly. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Reheat the liquid but do not let it boil or it will curdle. Pour the hot soup over the croutons. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serves 6.
Liz Holderman is a Worthologist who specializes in collectible books. “Dining with Antiques” is an ongoing feature in which she highlights usable collectible dinnerware, along with vintage recipes.
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