Endeavors: Chef’s Table “Masterpiece” Inspiration

Over the weekend a set of friends of mine and I continued the bi-monthly tradition of a Chef’s Table where every meet up is a theme and everyone create a dish that is a part of that theme. The theme of this past weekend was “Masterpieces” in which every dish was inspired by some known piece of art.

Mine’s was Jan Steen’s “Family Concert” and as one could imagine I was having a hell of a time with figuring out what to do… let alone where to begin.

If you are unfamiliar with the painting:

At first glance one would think that this was something of a scene of a fun family affair… and to an extent I would agree until one were to really look upon the painting. In fact according to the Art Institute of Chicago:

Jan Steen’s The Family Concert shows a family at home, relaxing and making music. Within this scene of family fun, Steen alluded to opposing forces of domestic life. The music making of the couple on the left suggests their future harmony together, and the lute, a common symbol of alliances, played by the husband reinforces this association. Other figures’ actions, however, hint at flirtation, even infidelity. Steen transforms the “bow,” with which the child at right plays the cello, for instance, into a clay pipe, a favorite symbol of bawdy behavior in Dutch painting. Examples of discord are also present—notably in the confrontation between the dog and cat.

So there is the feeling of harmony and chaos… ok… harmony and chaos. So now what?

This is where a little bit of research goes a long way. Jan Steen, a dutch artist, create this portrait “of family life”. Again in accordance to the Art Institute of Chicago:

Family Concert is an example of genre painting, (scenes of everyday life) popular among the growing middle class of 17th-century Netherlands. […] Dutch painters’ focus on the everyday world of the present in genre, landscape, portrait, and still life views was a […] reflection of the growing middle-class market for paintings that mirrored patrons’ environment, possessions, and pastimes. Steen, who was active as an artist in Utrecht, The Hague, and Leiden (where he managed a tavern), paid careful attention in this painting to the diverse collection of objects in this family’s home. The fine clothing, Middle-Eastern tablecloth, large painting with gold frame, and array of musical instruments attest to, and possibly criticize, the current Dutch preoccupation with displaying wealth.

In fact an old dutch saying of having “a Jan Steen household” is used when talking about having a messy household.

So this brought me to another conundrum… I was not familiar with Dutch culture at all so do I go with a classic dutch dish and change it up? Or do I go with something completely different and change it up with my interpretation? Well since I rather like the idea of creating something that appears to be well put together and yet chaotic I went with a classic French side dish of a quiche and really change it up.

I ended up using a Dutch baby pancake as the base / crust and the filling cheeses I chose too go more for cheese found in Dutch culture as opposed to French and kept the filling relatively the same… Like spinach, mushrooms, onions… Etc.

The result? Well… Perhaps I should get the recipe out for you in my next post…

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