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Picasso is one of the greatest artists of all time, but was also an inveterate womanizer and misogynist. Let's cook our way through moments in Picasso's life and process our conflicted feelings. If you want to see REAL chefs at work, check out Nourish!: A new series from PBS Digital Studios about the people, culture and science behind tantalizing southern dishes.

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Correction: The caption for the painting at 0:55 is incorrect and should read "Pablo Picasso, La Torre de Hércules, A Coruña, c. 1895."

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Throughout history, food has served as subject matter, inspiration, and of course, sustenance for artists.  Food has also been the art on a number of occasions.  Today, we will cook our way through the life and work of a hugely prolific artist about whom thousands of books have been written.  His metamorphoses through eclectic styles and notorious progression through wives and lovers make him a challenging subject, but he's been in the intro for a while so we're gonna give it a try anyway.

The story of Pablo Ruiz Picasso begins in Spain where he was born in 1881 in the Southern port city of Malaca.  He was named in the customary Spanish way, the Ruiz from his father, a painter, and Picasso from his mother.  They moved around for his dad's jobs, landing in Barcelona was Pablo was a teenager.  So the ridiculous story goes, at the age of 13, his father declared that his son's talent had outstripped his own and so he put down his brushes and never painted again.  That didn't happen, but Pablo was an accomplished artist for his age and breezed through and quickly got bored of his art schooling.

Now, I'm not such an amazing draftsperson, but what I'm trying to draw here is the neo-gothic entrance to (?~1:14), or the Four Cats, the cafe in Barcelona where Picasso had his first show in 1900 at the age of 18.  In the cookbook you never knew you needed, Picasso (?~1:25), you'll find a much better drawing of the cafe than ours, as well as a recipe for the hot wine flavored with cinnamon that Pablo and his artist friends drank there.  Sorry, we're not going to make these delicious-looking fritters, but we are gonna fry something, so hang tight.

To make what this book calls "sengri", a variant of the better-known sangria, we're going to start with a bottle of red wine.  I'm using a Spanish (?~1:47), along with some cognac, cinnamon, cloves, and acacia honey.  We're also gonna need the zest of three oranges.  I have no clue why I got out four.  But while I make zest using my handy microplane, I'll tell you that people have been heating and spicing wines since at least ancient Roman times.  

 (02:00) to (04:00)

Wine would be heavily watered down, heated, and mixed with herbs and spices to mask the taste of the often-bad wine and also make their water safer to drink.  The Spanish name originates from the word for 'blood' or 'sangre' and of course the red hue of the drink.  Into a pot goes your bottle of wine and a cinnamon stick and three whole cloves, and you're gonna bring it to a boil.  When that happens, add the zest, four tablespoons of honey, two tablespoons of cognac, and a cup of water.  Let it heat through and set it aside until you're ready to enjoy. 

Now, Picasso spent a lot of time at The Four Cats which was the gathering spot at the turn of the century for the experimental artists and writers and intellectuals of Barcelona.  In Catalan, Four Cats is a colloquialism for jsut a few people and those few people who were the spiritual core of the place were artists Santiago Rusinol, Miquel Utrillo, Ramon Casas, and its proprietor, Pere Romeu.  These guys published a magazine and staged shows, wanting to ignite a Catalonin renaissance, all having spent time in Paris and observing the modernism bubbling up there.  

It was here that Picasso not only had his first show of unframed drawings nailed to the wall, but found inspiration and support, drew portraits of his friends and the cafe's bohemian clientele.  He was also hired to design some of their menus.  They did serve food at The Four Cats, but what we're gonna make next isn't what Picasso would have eaten there but rather something he would have tried to sell.  

First we're gonna heat a pan with oil.  I'm using safflower, but anything with a high smoke point will do.  Now Picasso had made friends with aritst (?~3:44), who shared with him his technique for making antique-looking drawings to peddle to customers on the hunt for a rare vintage find.  Yes, I too thought that this would be more dramatic, but there's no liquid in our paper that would cause bubbling and spitting.  Anyway, (?~3:58) would fry drawings to achieve a kind of old parchment effect, agitating the pan or the drawing until it took on a sepia tint.  

 (04:00) to (06:00)

When the edges of your paper start to roll up, or when you just like the look and your paper is too heavy for the edges to curl, take it out and let it drain somewhere while you bask in the glory of your surprisingly successful experiment.  We must remember that there was a time before Picasso was Picasso.  Before he had a name that carried great import, when he was a promising and struggling young artist who surrounded himself with friends and mentors and who traveled between the Spanish countryside and Barcelona and more and more often to Paris, hungry for new environs and experiences.

And now our story moves on to France, which is, you know, actually connected to Spain sorta like, like this.  Pablo visited Paris several times trying to make a go of it, and landed pretty much for good in 1904 in the artist enclave of Montmartre.  He encountered impressionism and the work of Degas and Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec and the cabaret culture that reigned supreme.  He had been making paintings we now think of as belonging to his blue period, gaunt, unfortunate figures suffering from misfortune, and yes, rendered largely in shades of blue.  

He scraped by during his early Paris years but was surrounded by supportive writers and artists and as his fortunes improved, his palate warmed.  His figures became less resigned, clowns and acrobats and harlequins, people with a degree of agency.  He started to have shows and actually sell his work, attracting the attention of the prominent brother and sister collectors of modern art, Leo and Gertrude Stein, Americans living in Paris.  

Picasso painted Gertrude's portrait and was a frequent guest in her home, before and after she and her partner Alice B. Toklas settled into the famous apartment where they hosted a weekly salon.  Picasso had become a success, which brings us to our next course.  Toklas published a cookbook in 1954, most notable for its recipe for hashish fudge, given to her by her friend (?~6:05), but it also includes a recipe for a special dish she prepared for Picasso.   

 (06:00) to (08:00)

Toklas writes, "One day, when Picasso was to lunch with us, I decorated a fish in a way that I thought would amuse him."  She explains how she made a court-bouillon to cook it in, which is a broth made with dry white wine.  I went ahead and made this earlier, using her description and this more detailed recipe in Picasso Bon Vivant.  So our court-bouillon goes into a fish kettle, another thing you never knew you needed, and we bring it to a simmer while our whole striped bass waits in the wings.  When it's simmering, we gently lower in the fish and let it cook for about 20 minutes while we talk about Picasso and his many styles.

So far, we've mentioned his blue period and then the harlequin paintings we call his rose period, but next in the progression came something decidedly different, more of a radical break than a shift in color or subject matter and that was cubism.  Cezanne was an important predecessor to the movement, breaking up his landscapes into geometric volumes, but it was Picasso and his buddy Georges Braque who really made it happen.  They started fracturing their images into divided planes of light and dark, finding geometries in nature and discarding linear perspective.  They made still lifes of everyday objects, not from one's guy's perspective, but from all the perspectives, and they collaged in other materials like newspaper as well, but Picasso never just did one kind of thing for very long and soon after, he was onto neoclassical pictures of fleshy women and surrealistic imags of contorted figures and the abstracted style for which he's probably best known.  The one eye here, another eye there style that he riffed on for a long time, but what's hard to fully grasp is how much work he made and how much he vacillated between not only styles but mediums, embracing printmaking and exploring poetry and ceramics.

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He did all the things and not in clean succession, but back and forth, unwilling to commit to any one way.  Okay, so after 20 minutes, we lift the fish from the kettle and put it aside to drain and cool while we get our decorations ready.  First, we'll need to peel three hard-boiled eggs.  You can feel free to do this much more elegantly and cleanly than I, and then separate the yolks from the whites.  Then you'll press them through a sieve so that you have these nice little bits at the end.  We're also gonna finally chop some herbs.  I'm using chives and parsley here, but you can expand this to include the more traditionally French mix with tarragon and (?~8:37).

We also need to make a tomato mayonnaise, which Toklas explains can be made with ordinary mayo, but not an, I quote, "horror of horrors, ketchup, but with tomato paste."  When our fish is cooled, we carefully remove the skin from one side and transfer it to a serving plate to chill thoroughly in the fridge.  Toklas tells us that shortly before serving, she covered the fish with the mayonnaise and I'm using a pastry bag here just to get it as even as possible, and then she made a design, alternating the egg whites, egg yolks, herbs, and truffles, which I've made the executive decision not to use.  

Toklas shared in her cookbook, "I was proud of my chef d'oeuvre when it was served and Picasso exclaimed its beauty, but he said, should it not rather have been made in honor of Matisse than of me?" which is not the nicest thing to say to a person who has just painstakingly made a magnificent fish artwork for you, but to be fair, I'm not totally sure why she chose to make a striped fish for him.  He made plenty of artworks in his life depicting seafood in some fashion or another, and he was certainly known for his taking of real things in the world and abstracting them into simplified forms with bold colors and outlines.  

But Matisse was the one who had a clear thing for goldfish and was also a fixture in the Stein/Toklas salon.  Stein introduced Matisse and Picasso who were known rivals and friends throughout their lives, but anyway, in Stein's 1939 book about Picasso, she wrote in her syncopated style, "The thing that I want to insist upon is that Picasso's gift is completely the gift of a painter and a draftsman.  

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He is a man who always had need of emptying himself, of completely emptying himself.  It is necessary that he should be greatly stimulated so that he could be active enough to empty himself completely."  Which brings us to the sausage problem.  So when you read any account of Picasso or his work, interwoven is inevitably his biography and his turbulent and often disturbing love and family life, often told in chapters that align with his shifts in style and approach, and it's really distracting, because even if you just want to talk about this 1941 painting for what it is, you can't do it without addressing the sausage in the room.

Yes, this is blood sausage I'm arranging and joining on the board with the other elements of the still life Picasso painted while holed up in his studio during the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II.  These are not ingredients of scarcity or want.  Picasso was very well-off by this point.  This is a tableau of plenty.  Unlike many artists who were enlisted in the fight or fled to safer places, Picasso stayed put and we can see this still life as an expression of the in-between space he existed in, during a time when trauma was unfolding all around him.

The scene is lit with harsh, interrogating light.  Sharp angles abound.  The wedge of cheese, the large chef's knife, and the pointed cutlery emerging from the drawing.  The coil of blood sausage has been compared to the spilling of intestines, a reminder of the grotesque and very close by atrocities of war.  Picasso reminds us how effective objects can be in expressing emotion, communicating his anxiety and dread with the everyday foodstuffs around him.

He had expressed his political sympathies before in a much more overt manner with his epic painting "Guernica" and also the "Dream and Lie of Franco II" as recently as 1937.  Picasso once told a biographer, "Look, even a saucepan can shout.

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Everything can shout."  We're using the French version of blood sausage called boudin noir, and yes, it's made with pork blood and snouts and all sorts of delicious stuff, and while we're chopping and frying, we're gonna try to work through our conflicted feelings about this talented man with a proven capacity for empathy who was also pretty clearly a misogynist and womanizer who left pain and misery in his wake.

He was a charismatic man, described by those who knew and loved him as lively, funny, magnetic, and powerful, but also moody, stubborn, sarcastic, sad, ill-tempered, and sometimes cruel.  His misogyny is not just evidenced in such professions as the one he made (?~12:43) Francoise Gilot when he was 61 and she was 21.  "For me, there are only two kinds of women," he said, "Goddesses and doormats," but it can be seen and felt in his work, too.  Most notably, his monumental 1907 painting "Les Demoiselles D'avignon", a composition of prostitutes presenting themselves to the viewer, faces modeled after the abstracted forms of African and Iberian masks.  

We see in this and other works his complex and often contradictory feelings about women, an intermingling of desire and fear and overtones of Stein's evocation of a man who must be greatly stimulated so that he could empty himself and promptly move along.  Sausage, anyone?  

Oof.  Well, I feel better.  We're now gonna breeze through the last decades of Picasso's life as we work with some bread dough that I purchased from our best local bakery.  Because no one wants to see my bread fail to rise once again.  In 1952, when Picasso was living near Cannes on the Mediterranean coast of France, the photographer Robert Doisneau visited Picasso and took this picture.  The bakers in a small town made these hand-shaped breads with thick fingers and called them Picassos and Picasso himself thought they were funny and playfully posed with them.

Our first attempt has clearly turned out ridiculously large, but let's give it a bake anyway and send it off to a 450 degree oven until the bottom sounds hollow when knocked.  

 (14:00) to (16:00)

Hmm.  Not quite as elegant as I had hoped.  Let's try again.  The bakers had been making these special breads for a long time, but renamed them after this man of outsized reputation moved to town.  Alas, here we see Picasso's fortune and also his misfortune.  He continued to make a tremendous volume of work even later in life and his fame and others' fascination with him only grew.  He moved to different houses, bought magnificent chateaus, and ate well.  He was a legend, whether or not he wanted it.

Okay, these are much better and much more suitable in scale to a man who, while vigorous, was a rather small person.  In 1960, Picasso revealed to the photographer Brassai, "I live in seclusion like a prisoner.  I would not wish my celebrity on anyone, not even my worst enemies," and he protected himself largely by making art, focusing on it to an almost maniacal degree, at the expense of many relationships in his life, and yes, these are some bread hands.  

As we reflect upon Picasso's life, I can't help but appreciate his insatiable appetite, not for women, oh no, but for life and ideas and for making things.  He once said he wanted everyone to realize above all, that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only a trifling bit of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things that please us in the world that we can't explain them, and this is a good enough place to end our bumbling attempt to make sense of this man and his work, whose impact on art history and on our collective imagination we'll be mulling over far into the future.  

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