13 April 2011

Sunday's Kitchen: Food & Living at Heide

Let me preface this by saying that Australia has never held any great thrall with me. I suppose if Oprah paid my way to go and visit I might board the plane. That being said, I love Donna Hay and Stephanie Alexander. It was because of Alexander that I ran across Sunday's Kitchen: Food & Living at Heide as she wrote the foreword.

I knew nothing about Sunday Reed but it seems she and her husband, John, we big art patrons in Australia. They purchased a house they called Heide, short for "Heidleberg" and began inviting artist friends to stay there. They wanted a self-sustaining farm with gardens and animals and orchards and they worked for years to make their house magical.

Agnes Goodsir, Portrait of Sunday Baillieu Quinn, Paris 1929

Along the way, Sunday Reed cooked for friends and family and few people who sat at her table forgot the event. Stephanie Alexander met the Reeds once and always remembered the encounter. Heide was made a museum after the Reed's deaths (Sunday died ten days after John). Two curators at the museum, Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan produced an exhibition that looked at life at Heide when Sunday was running the house and cooking. They found recipes that Sunday used and several of her annotated cookbooks and produced a book that is part cookbook, part biography, part art history and all fun. It is both warn and scholarly, not always an easy feat. Here is their description of the exhibition:

This exhibition explores life behind-the-scenes at Heide, the celebrated haven for progressive modernist artist and writers. Heide was the home and personal Eden of John and Sunday Reed, two of Australia's most significant art benefactors. Settling on the fifteen acre property in 1935, the Reeds transformed it from a run-down dairy farm into a fertile creative space. They extended their hospitality and resources to now-famous artists such as Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester and Charles Blackman and developed a culture of collaboration, eclecticism and idealism which helped change the course of Australian art.

At the centre of activity was Sunday Reed, a passionate cook and gardener, who ensured the artists she championed received sustenance for the body, not just the mind. Drawing on her experiences in the south of France, she established two abundant kitchen gardens and developed a ‘garden to table’ approach to cooking, enhanced by fresh milk, cream, butter and eggs all produced at Heide. This emphasis on subsistence living, coupled with a self-styled domestic aesthetic, became an inspirational model for those in the Reeds’ wider circle.

Sunday Reed was greatly influenced by the time she spent in France. Much of her cooking came with a French influence. One of her specialities was chocolate mousse. It is an extremely simple recipe but the finished product is lovely.

Chocolate Mousse

115g chocolate
4 eggs, separated

Melt the chocolate, allow to cool a little, then work egg yolks in well. Whip the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the chocolate mixture a little at a time. Pour into a glass dish and chill.

Well, I admit, I knew nothing about the Reed's or Heide but I am convinced that really need to visit. Oprah, are you listening?

1 comment:

  1. You must visit us here in Australia. Melbourne would be enough to keep you busy and entertained. My daughter has just started a job at Heide. Such rich history. Look up the work of Joy Hester....ahead of her time I think.


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