Art for Food and Food for Thought:
Koenig Books to publish new art-meets-cookbook,
Valeria Napoleone’s Catalogue of Exquisite Recipes
Apple plum, carpet steak, seed clam, colored
wine, calm seen, cold cream, best shake, potato,
potato and no no gold work with pet, a green
seen is called bake and change sweet is bready,
a little piece a little piece please.
Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons, 1914
This October, Koenig Books will publish a new 144-page hardback book for both the coffee table and the kitchen table, written by London-based art collector Valeria Napoleone. Inspired by the fabled dinners Valeria regularly hosts at her home for the great and the good of the London art world, Valeria Napoleone’s Catalogue of Exquisite Recipes is brimming with generations-old family recipes from Valeria’s birthplace in Lombardy in Northern Italy sitting side-by-side a dynamic and bold collection of works, many of which are new and unseen, by artists Valeria collects from, all of whom are women. The book is intended to function both as a practical cook book and as a collection of beautiful artworks, as Valeria encourages readers in the foreword, “Please Read, Look, Cook and Feed!”
Art and Food
The relationship between art and food is as old as history itself. Variously importing theological, social, hierarchical or simply aesthetic values to an artwork, food has been used throughout art history as one of its most potent symbols. No less so in today’s fast-paced contemporary art world, as frieze magazine Editor Jennifer Higgie explains in one of two short essays in the book on the relationship between art and food (the other is written by UK restaurateur Mark Hix):
“Food in the art world is impossible to avoid: most social activities revolve around delicious dinners at fancy restaurants hosted by galleries, or suppers at lovely homes hosted by collectors, or big parties with canapés in unusual venues such as second-hand furniture shops, or the scoffing of endless packets of crisps at the pub after an opening at an artist-run space.”
Valeria Napoleone’s Catalogue of Exquisite Recipes explores this relationship in a compelling, visually satisfying, challenging and often humorous way.
Valeria learned to cook from her grandmother and mother growing-up in Italy as a child. The recipes learned here and transcribed for the book bear the classic hallmarks of family eating: these are nourishing, honest, often simple and utterly delicious dishes that are best enjoyed as a group, whether friends or family.
The book divides the recipes into easy to follow sections: Appetisers and Finger Food, including Salvia fritta (Deep-fried sage), Polpettone di tonno (Tuna loaf) and Olive all’ascolana (Ascolana-style stuffed olives); Sauces (Hot and Cold), such as Sugo ‘Cala di Volpe’ alle vongole e bottarga (‘Cala di Volpe sauce with clams and smoked mullet roe); Pasta and Rice, including Risotto con salsiccie (Risotto with sausages), Pasta e fagioli (Pasta and bean soup) and Polenta al burro tostata (Buttered toasted polenta); Meat, such as Arrosto di vitello al latte (Roast veal with milk), Bruscitti piatto tipico Lambardo (Minced beef Lombardy-style) and Polpette casalinghe (Homemade meatballs); Fish and Seafood, including Orata alla mediterranea (Mediterranean- style sea bream) and Scampi all’aceto balsamico (Prawns with balsamic vinegar glaze); Vegetables, including Melanzane alla parmigiana (Aubergine parmigiana), Broccoletti all’acciuga (Broccoli with anchovies) and Torta Pasqualina (Artichoke pie); and Desserts, such as Tiramisu, Crostata di ricotta (Ricotta cake) and Gelato economico (Easy ice cream).
Interspersed amongst the recipes are artworks that respond to the idea of “food”, some quite literally, others more obliquely. The works were all personally chosen by the artists themselves, many of whom created new material specially for the book. Mirroring Valeria’s personal collection, all the works in the book are by female artists only – a roll call of the most forward thinking of today’s practitioners, producing the most challenging and highest quality work. The artists include Tomma Abts, Monica Bonvicini, Spartacus Chetwynd, Linder, Goshka Macuga, Aleksandra Mir, Francis Upritchard, Julie Verhoven and Lisa Yuskavage.
Multidisciplinary art directors and creative agency Åbäke has provided a design that very much responds to the book’s dual identity between art and food. A custom typeface is used that reflects Valeria’s personality: a mix between a classic font from the Didot family, often associated with fashion publishing, and something a little more expressive and, perhaps, idiosyncratic. The cover is formed from a fabric that shimmers in the light and is appropriately called “Pepperoni”. The endpapers are new works made for the book by artists Lily van der Stokker and Tauba Auerbach.
Down Syndrome Education International
A portion of the profits of the book will be donated to Down Syndrome Education International, an organization that identifies and develops effective teaching methods for children with Down syndrome – a cause that has personal significance for Valeria.