While I was sipping my mint julep and eyeing the last of the two petit croquet-monsieur sandwiches, I was thinking about the silver punch bowl on display in the Scott Galleries of American Art and the fabulous ingredients that could have filled it in a bygone era.
“The word punch is Hindi in origin and means five,” Maite Gomez-Rejón had explained an hour or so earlier, when she was leading a session of one of the most popular series of classes in The Huntington’s Continuing Education Program. “Punch was originally made with five ingredients, such as alcohol, sugar, lemon, water and tea or spices and at one time may have been safer to drink than local water.”
Gomez-Rejón, an art educator and chef, blends The Huntington’s art, library, and botanical collections with her love of cooking and culinary history. In her latest cooking class, “A Taste of Art: Appetizing America,” she led her students through a tour of the Scott Galleries and then brought everybody to her chef’s kitchen (in the Botanical Center) to whip up dishes inspired by what they had seen in the galleries.
Andy Warhol’s Small Crushed Campbell’s Soup Can (Beef Noodle), a recent gift to the institution, was the inspiration for one of the recipes that we tackled. “Mushroom Caps with Creamed Spinach” called for a quarter cup of Campbell’s mushroom soup. All of the recipes drew inspiration from the art—from 19th-century punch bowls to Warhol’s pop art.
Just as the class participants finished the art tour and whetted their appetites for the cooking, Doris Robin shared her thoughts, confirming the Gomez-Rejón’s belief that all food has a history worth exploring. “Campbell’s Tomato Soup with crushed saltines,” said Robin, “was the essence of a 1950s childhood.”
“A Taste of Art” cooking classes usually fill up quickly and are offered bi-monthly, if not more, and can be found through The Huntington’s Calendar or by going to Gomez-Rejón’s website at www.artbites.net.
CAPTION: Doris Robin and Maite Gomez-Rejón don their aprons after their tour of the Scott Galleries. Photos by Tom Magill.
Alexandra Vergun is the education programs administrative assistant at The Huntington.