Finally, a Cookbook for Art Lovers

What can we learn about artists based on what they like to eat and how they like it prepared? A very special cookbook featuring the recipes of influential photographers of the 1970s reveals that the answer is, actually, quite a lot.

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All of a sudden, the artist cookbook is a thriving subgenre. In recent months we've had Mina Stone's Cooking for Artists and Olafur Eliasson's The Kitchen, and now along comes The Photographer's Cookbook, which shows us how photographers' meals reflect their creative personalities and eccentricities by means of a long-forgotten collection of eclectic recipes (accompanied, of course, by some beautiful images).

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If you love Imogen Cunningham's magnificent botanical photography, consider trying her borscht. But be warned: her entry is more of a meditation on the overuse of salt than actual directions for cooking the meal. Or perhaps you're a fan of Richard Avedon's iconic fashion photographs. Now you can enjoy his mother's pot roast, a recipe just as carefully composed as the photographer's definitive images. These are just two of the photographers of about 50 included in the book.

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But why has it taken so long for these recipes dating back to the mid-1970s to be published? The idea was originally conceived by the registrar of  George Eastman House, Deborah Barsel, in 1977, but she left the museum before she could finish the project. Luckily, curator Lisa Hostetler came across a neatly organized box of Barsel's cookbook files when she joined the museum in Rochester, New York, just a few years ago (it's now called the George Eastman Museum). Edited down to select recipes and presented exactly as they were received from the photographers 40 years ago, the book is finally being released this week.

Now, see three special recipes from the book—try them for yourself, and/or enjoy some insight into the unique palettes of these influential photographers!

Ansel Adams's Eggs Poached in Beer


1⁄4 cup (1/8 pound) butter

Mixed spicesDash sherry

1 bottle dark malt liquor or strong ale (ordinary beer is not strong enough)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2 pieces toast Dash paprika

  1. Melt butter in microwave oven, but do not allow to brown. Add a dash of mixed spices and sherry.
  2. In a small bowl, microwave malt or ale with 1/4 teaspoon salt just to the boiling point. Carefully slide eggs into this hot liquid, cover with paper plate or glass bowl (to retain thermal heat), and cook as desired in microwave. (See note below on microwave cooking.)
  3. While eggs are cooking in microwave, make two pieces of toast. Spread part of the butter-spice mix over the toast.
  4. Serve eggs on the toast, and pour over the rest of the butter-spice mix. Add a dash of paprika.

Note on microwave cooking:I like my eggs poached soft. I find that 1 egg in the hot ale or malt takes about 1 minute to cook, 2 eggs about 2 minutes, etc., all the way up to 8 eggs about 8 minutes. When working with as many as 8 eggs, the bowl should be moved around every 2–3 minutes.

Ansel Adams (1902–1984) is one of the most celebrated landscape photographers in history, who is especially well-known for his black-and-white images of the American West

Ralph Steiner's Zwei Vier Minuten Eier

Basically I am more a Basse Cuisine than a Haute Cuisine chef. I got my Cordon Blue not in Paris but in Erie, Pennsylvania. There I learned two accomplishments:

  1. How to take a box of corn flakes down from the shelf.
  2. How to boil 2 four-minute eggs.

Eggs are important! You, of course, recall Samuel Butler's famous solution of the ancient question: "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" He said: "The egg came first: a chicken is only an egg's way of making another egg."

Now for my "favorite"/only recipe:

One puts water an egg's diameter deep into a pan. Turns heat on. When boiling briskly, drop two eggs in from low altitude. Turn heat off. One watches one's watch watchfully for two hundred and forty seconds. At the stroke of two forty, one removes eggs. On opening eggs I always manage to get some bits of shell—or is it "will" in my eggs. I never know when to use "shell" and when to use "will." Never mind; a bit of shell ingested gives a man shell power.

Ralph Steiner (1899–1986) is best known for his modernist images and films with a focus on the American landscape.

Robert Heineken's Serious Martini


English Gin

California lemon

  1. Take one bottle of either Tanqueray or Bombay gin. Beefeater should not be a substitute.
  2. Take long stem crystal glass preferably with straight v-shaped sides, minimum capacity 3 ounces.
  3. Place both in freezer, 5 to 6 hours prior to intended imbibing.
  4. For each serving, pour the desired amount (minimum 3 ounces) directly from the bottle into frozen glass. Use no ice, and avoid touching the bowl of the glass.
  5. Add the juice of 1/8 California lemon. Remove any seeds and submerge the lemon slice rind in the drink.
  6. Serve and repeat for maximum effect.

Note a. An excellent companion to this drink is iced shrimp dipped to taste in cocktail sauce with lemon juice added.

Note b. This drink is not recommended before 11:00 a.m.

Calling himself a "para-photographer," Robert Heinecken (1931–2006) made unconventional works using found imagery, often without his own camera. 

The Photographer's Cookbook, $30,

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