Previous: Better Know the Great Wave | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios
Next: The Case for Land Art | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios



View count:287,753
Last sync:2024-02-12 13:00
Where do the worlds of ART and FOOD intersect? GEORGIA O'KEEFFE was a groundbreaking artist, but also a serious health food enthusiast. We make: 1) Whole Wheat Bread, 2) Tiger's Milk smoothies, and 3) Green Chile with Garlic and Oil + fried eggs. To support our channel, or at least consider it:

Thanks to our Grandmaster of the Arts Indianapolis Homes Realty, and all of our patrons, especially Patrick Hanna, Constance Urist, and Chad Crews.

Be sure to check out Vanessa Hill's new series Mutant Menu on her channel Brain Craft:

And also check out the new PBS Digital Studio's channel Above the Noise:

Subscribe for new episodes of The Art Assignment every other Thursday!

Follow us elsewhere for the full Art Assignment experience:
Extra Credit Group:
All responses tumblr:
and maybe Reddit?:

 (00:00) to (02:00)

(PBS Digital Studios logo)

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 occassions.  Today, we're gonna talk about an instance when an artist's work and cooking life intertwined and we're hoping it's an antidote to the terrifying futurist meat sculpture we made last time.  

We're back in the kitchen and we're gonna be talking about the art and cooking of the mighty Georgia O'Keeffe and we'll be working from two cookbooks, A Painter's Kitchen by Margaret Wood, who worked as her companion and cook for five years, and Dinner with Georgia O'Keeffe by Robyn Lea, who thoroughly researched her cooking life, although strangely used this photo of pastels on the cover, a material that O'Keeffe didn't really use. 

Anyway, we're gonna make breakfast today, including whole wheat bread, a smoothie called Tiger's Milk, and green chile with garlic and oil that we'll serve with fried eggs.  It's gonna be great.  What you must know from the start is that O'Keeffe was a serious health food enthusiast and lived to age 98.  Homemade bread was a part of daily life in her house, and she ground her own wheat to make flour for it, using a countertop mill kinda sorta not really like this one, and heck, if it worked for O'Keeffe, we should probably try it, too, but it's gonna take a while, so let's have story time while this is happening.

Georgia O'Keeffe was born in 1887 and grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin where they made their own cheese and yogurt, grew their own fruits and vegetables, and where she learned how to make bread on their cook's day off.  O'Keeffe had staff at various times throughout her life and wasn't afraid to call them in to surface, so I'm gonna go ahead and do that, too.  

Okay, so she went to art school in Chicago and then New York, learning realist painting from the likes of Kenyon Cox and William Merritt Chase, who taught his students to seek to be aristic in every way.  O'Keeffe evolved her own distinct style, breaking on to the New York art scene with a series of abstract charcoal drawings begun in 1915.  This was aided by photographer Alfred Stieglitz who was also an art dealer and showed and promoted her work.

Phew, this is really hard work, guys.  Not too much more to go.

 (02:00) to (04:00)

O'Keeffe became part of Stieglitz's inner circle of early modernists, including Arthur Dove, Charles Demuth, and Edward Steichen, among others.  In the 1920s, she painted pictures of New York City architecture and then in 1924, began the extreme close-up views of flowers that you probably recognize.  Enlarging these tiny bits of nature onto large canvasses transformed something very real into something abstract.

It also must be said that she denied again and again the reading of these pictures as representations of female genitalia.  Her interest in depicting nature and landscapes was sparked by the trips she took to Lake George, New York with Stieglitz, whom she had married.  The relationship was rocky.  He cheated, and she began to spend more and more time in New Mexico, where she moved permanently in 1949 after he had died.

Whoa, okay, so finally we have the flour and now we can actually start making our bread.  First she wants us to scald two cups of milk, which basically just means bringing it to a slight boil and then turning it off.  The internet tells me this step is now unnecessary because of more reliable milk, but we're trying to be at least a little historically accurate here.  

While that cools, you're gonna dissolve a tablespoon of dried yeast into a quarter cup of warm water.  They said 110 degrees, but I just sort of estimated hot but not hot enough to burn you.  To that, we add a teaspoon of honey and let it stand for five minutes or until foamy.  Okay, looks foamy.  Then we added two tablespoons of honey.  My hands are clean, I promise.  Two tablespoons of canola oil.  Three quarters teaspoon salt, and then the cooled milk.  Give that a little mix and start adding the flour, one cup at a time, until it becomes difficult to stir.  This is also the time that you're supposed to add a half a cup of wheat germ, which I forgot but I milled my own flour, what more can you expect.

Then, turn the dough onto a surface and knead it, working in more flour as you go, until it's smooth and elastic.  I don't have a tremendous amount of bread experience but my arms are tired and I'm gonna say that we're there.  Then get out a large bowl, oil it, and place the dough in it and cover it with a cloth.  

 (04:00) to (06:00)

Mine has chickens, but this recipe will work with differently decorated towels, too.  Then put it in a warm spot and let it rise for an hour.   

Now we're gonna reward all of this physical labor with some energizing tiger's milk, which O'Keeffe drank regularly and also pushed on family and friends.  The recipe comes from Adelle Davis, a popular mid-century nutritionist who O'Keeffe followed.  So into a blender you'll throw a cup of plain yogurt, a teaspoon of brewer's yeast rich in vitamin B and which I now have a giant jar of, and a cup of milk.  I tried to use as many local products as I could, in the spirit of O'Keeffe, who kept a large organic garden next to her house in (?~4:36), New Mexico.  The banana I added next certainly wasn't local and neither were the frozen raspberries that went in after.  O'Keeffe did grow her own berries and most of the produce used in the household.

Then we add a tablespoon of local honey, a tablespoon of protein powder, and two teaspoons of the copious amount of wheat germ I should have used in the bread.  There are a bunch of optional additions that I went along with, including half a cup apricot nectar, half a cup pineapple, and one tablespoon of black strap molasses, which contains valuable nutrients like calcium, iron, and magnesium. 

We are also asked to add one teaspoon of calcium gluconate.  I went to a health food store and they gave me these, which I think are kind of close to what she asked for, but heck, nutritional supplements are regulated by the FDA, right?  Then we blend it all up and await the elixir that served O'Keeffe so well all those years.  She firmly believed that good food would assist artists in making their best work.  To her, food provides a constant stream of multisensory information and she also believed that specific foods like this would power the creative mind.

Magically, the kitchen cleans itself and we pour tall glasses and add historically accurate straws from Ikea.  These are actually pretty good, although the yeastiness takes some getting used to.  This serves two, and you should share the other one with a reluctant visitor as O'Keeffe would have, or you know, your camera operator.

Duly fortified, we now check on our bread, which has doubled as we hoped it would and which we are then instructed to punch down, divide into two loaves, and place into oiled loaf pans.  

 (06:00) to (08:00)

These get covered again with the chickens and put back into a warm spot for another 30 minutes or until doubled.  Now we're gonna get to talk about New Mexico while we're preparing the green chiles.  This recipe calls for four or five long, healthy, green chiles, and I'm using Poblanos, which are quite mild.  We put these on a cookie sheet and place these under the broiler, rotating until all sides are blackened and the skin is bubbling away from the flesh.  Then you can pop these into a pan with a tight-fitting lid or wrap them in wet paper towels so they can steam for a minute and become easier to peel. 

While that's happening, let's peel and mince two cloves of garlic.  The recipe tells you to use a garlic press, but I don't have one, so I give them a good whack to remove the skin and then set about chopping them.  O'Keeffe believed in the nutritional benefits of garlic, which she grew in her garden along with abundant green chiles, a vegetable high in vitamins A and C.  They're a staple of New Mexican cooking and she used them a lot.  Now, I remove the skin from the flesh of the chiles, along with the stems and the seeds and the major veins along the interior where most of the heat lives.  If you're using hotter chiles, be careful not to touch your eyes during the process.  This is kinda tedious so let's get back to the story.

O'Keeffe was enamoured with the landscape of Northern New Mexico, the vegetation, the terrain, the quality of light, the vivid colors, and she found endless subjects to paint.  She owned two homes there, one in Ghost Ranch where she spent the summer and the home in (?~7:22), where she spent the rest of the year, had her garden, and rehabbed an existing adobe home to suit here.  It's here you can really see her dedication to an austere but beautiful simplicity that pervaded her art, personal style, and her cooking.

Okay, so now we cut the chiles into strips and arrange them on a plate so that they mostly don't overlap.  Then spread the crushed garlic evenly over the strips.  Pour a couple of teaspoons of olive oil over top and dust lightly with herb salt.  This didn't seem sufficient, so I followed with more sea salt and ta da!  It can sit until we're ready.

Then we check on our bread and it has indeed doubled.  It's ready for the 350 degree oven, where we wished it luck and sent it to bake for about 45 minutes or untill the base of the loaves sound hollow when tapped.  

 (08:00) to (10:00)

Then pull them from the oven, awkwardly turn them out onto a cooling rack, and admire your successful but admittedly a little flat first attempt at truly homemade bread.  While those are cooling, fry yourself up some eggs however you like them.  I use a little olive oil and opt for over easy, and they almost always keep to themselves in the pan, but not when you guys are watching, so let's just make that guy get back to where he's supposed to be.  Then when they're ready, flip them over confidently, 'cause hesitation will result in disaster and when they look good, they're done.

At long last and now that it's solidly lunch time, we're ready for breakfast.  Let's cut some slices of our bread which smells really delicious, plate an egg, serve some green chili next to it, and place some bread alongside, and homemade bread deserves as much butter as you're feeling like.  This is fantastic.  It's not surprising that something prepared with attention and care, with fresh and nutrient-rich ingredients would also taste good.  O'Keeffe's reverence for nature, precision, and experimental attitude suffused her art and her everyday life.  The independent life she made for herself, living in tune with nature, was where she found happiness, creative fulfillment, and ultimately, an indelible legacy.

This episode is supported in part by viewers like you through Patreon, a subscription-based platform that allows you to support the channels you like in the form of a monthly donation.  Special thanks to our grand master of the arts, Indianapolis Homes Realty.  

Hey guys, we have some announcements I wanted to share with you today.  Item one is that this summer, we'll be shipping the first in our installment of limited edition prints to our Patrons who are supporting us at a $50 a month level.  Yes, that is a lot of money, but not really when you're receiving this amazing print series by Nathaniel Russell, who you may remember for his Art Assignment or maybe you've seen some of his incredible work around the web.  This is a really special opportunity, both to collect good, meaningful art and support our channel.

 (10:00) to (11:15)

Item two is that my friend and fellow PBS Digital Studios host, Vanessa Hill, has released a documentary called "Mutant Menu" which you can check out over on her channel Braincraft.  In it, she travels the world and explores the science and ethics of editing our DNA, which is becoming increasingly possible through new gene editing technologies like CRISPR.  It's fascinating and in it, Vanessa even eats CRISPR-modified cabbage.  There's a link in the description.

Item three is more exciting PBS Digital Studios news and that's their new show "Above the Noise", which takes a deeper look at the science behind controversial and trending topics in the news.  Myles Bess and Shirin Ghaffary dig into the research to find out what's hype and what's fact, like their recent video on gerrymandering, which explains extremely clearly how our political districts are drawn and how these practices affect your vote.  Go check it out.