Friday, January 15, 2010


VAN GOGH'S TABLE AT THE AUBERGE RAVOUX *****, available here on Amazon.

My friend, Jain @ Once in a Blue Moon is one of the most creative, talented, generous, and energetic individuals I've ever encountered. Not only is she the creator of "Food with Style", but she has now launched "Food for Thought", a venue for food inspired book reviews.

Styled after Van Gogh's Red Cabbages and Onions, Paris, 1887

Ask me to name a favorite book, movie, artist, or even a color, and I simply can't single any out. I grew up in a small town environment. Daydreaming was my escape to other places I longed to be, and I can easily get lost in the pages of a book or the canvas of a painting or the beauty of a garden.

Styled after Van Gogh's Bowl with Potatoes, Arles, 1888

I do know that the first art book I ever owned was one of Vincent Van Gogh's work. It was a large book full of color plates of his life's work. Sadly that book disappeared along the way through various moves in my single days, but distinct images of Van Gogh's work remain vivid in my mind.

Styled after Van Gogh's A Plate of Lemons and a Carafe, Paris, 1887

Several years ago I traveled with friends on a day excursion from Paris out to the quaint village of Auvers-sur-Oise. Our intent was to lunch at the now famous Auberge Ravoux, but to our disappointment it was not open on the day of our visit. We stood outside peering in through the lace curtains that hang in the windows. Now classified as a national monument, the auberge is much as it was when Van Gogh lived the last days of his life there in a small attic room, Room #5. Auvers-sur-Oise is where Van Gogh painted more than 70 master pieces in those last days. One can walk in his footsteps and view the landscapes that he saw and painted.

A Letter from artist, Jennifer Bell, 2000

We ventured to Auvers-sur-Oise on the recommendation of our friend and artist, Jennifer Bell. She had spent a month traveling through France. Her letter about her experience in Auvers -sur-Oise and dinner at the Auberge Ravoux is above. Click on the image to enlarge the print to read Jennifer's impression of this quaint village north of Paris.

The Maitre'd at the Auberge Ravoux, Jennifer Bell, 2000

Jennifer now resides in Italy with her Italian husband and a young son. The image above is of an oil on canvas that Jennifer painted from impressions of her sojourn in Auvers-sur-Oise. She says, "The Maitre'd at Auberge Ravoux was inspired by a man living today, and I imagine he is not much different than someone working in a Parisian cafe one hundred years ago." To view Jennifer's current work and learn more about this talented and fascinating young artist, visit

by Alexandra Leaf and Fred Leeman

VAN GOGH'S TABLE is a skillfully written combination art history book and cookbook. Part I, Leeman's series of essays, A Private Life in Public Places, takes us into Van Gogh's world and his tormented life. Part Two contains recipes of the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise documented by culinary historian Alexandra Leaf. An authority on 19th century French cuisine, she not only shares some of the recipes of the Auberge Ravoux but also gives us a look into the history of this authentic French inn.

Lamb Ravoux Style with Sautéed Potatoes

Having left his family home at the age of eleven, Van Gogh lived the life of a wanderer. Leeman, former curator of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, writes, "For an Artist who has neither family nor a home he can call his own, the café or auberge is where he sleeps, takes his meals, drinks, dreams, and drinks again. It is where he meets friends, artists like himself, and engages in discussions on art and life. It is a public place that assumes the face of privacy." (p. 33, VAN GOGH'S TABLE AT THE AUBERGE RAVOUX) Leeman takes the reader along to various places Van Gogh lived and painted. Still lifes of food, scenes within the cafés or through their windows, and portraits of the ordinary people who were a part of Van Gogh's life are the focus.

For those of us who love food, Part II is all about the Auberge Ravoux and recipes from Van Gogh's last home. According to Adeline Ravoux, the inn keeper's daughter, meals at the auberge were simple, "meat, vegetables, salad, dessert." With so many recipes from which to choose, it was not difficult to make food connections with this book.

It's been raining here all day. So Lamb Ravoux Style with Sautéed Potatoes seemed like a perfect choice. Lamb with a vegetable mixture of carrots, onions, and mushrooms cooks in a rich broth of lamb stock and dry white wine.

The sautéed potatoes are pan fired and then finished off in a hot oven. A beautiful golden brown, they are both salty and crunchy, and add the perfect side to this stew.

Add a nice red wine, a loaf of crusty bread, and dinner is served!

Bon Appétit!

My compliments to the chef!

Should you have any technical questions on this dish, you may address your questions to my husband, the resident chef here at HFTS.

To view a list of more "edible" book reviews and to learn how to add your own, visit Jain @ Food for Thought or Once in a Blue Moon.


The summer we married, my husband was in graduate school, and I was employed as a teacher. We took a portion of our savings that summer and purchased a sailboat. We christened our Catalina 22, “Hyacinths For The Soul” after Saadi’s poem. Our "Hyacinths" provided years of pleasure.


  1. Sarah, I am officially jealous! A husband who cooks and cooks beautiful food at that! Tell him I'm in love with him! That looks delicious, and this was such an interesting post about Van Gogh. I have a small book of his works depicting tables and/or food, and I love it. You've reminded me of that book. I'm going to have to go look for it and browse through it again. laurie

  2. sarah... you know you made my heart sing~ what an exquisite post about something dear to my heart, and so beautifully executed~ i read you like a fine book, sitting by the fire and breathing in your wonderful meal and stories. oh i am soooooo happy i started food for thought, it is these little moments in time i cherish, to SEE you share the book so beautifully is just tantalizing. good book, good food, good pictures, good people, it doesn't get any better then this~

    thank you for helping kick off food for thought!

  3. A lovely, descriptive post and a recipe for a delicious lamb stew.

  4. Have ordered the book Sarah, I don't know how I missed this post earlier. Another very interesting one. The food looks delicious. Compliments to the chef!

  5. Hi Sarah,
    Like Doris I almost missed this wonderful post and the new blog & meme that you have joined.
    I have to check this one out tout suite!
    The food looks divine, compliments to Chef A.

  6. Sarah, I purchased this book a few years back - it's really lovely. After taking granddaughter Jasmin to Arles in 2007 so she could visit Van Gogh's bedroom in the building where he lived (he's her favorite artist), I too decided I needed to know more about the tragic life of Vincent. This book is wonderful and, like you, I hope some day to visit the restaurant - and pray that it will be open on that day!!

  7. I really loved this post. You've given us wonderful words, lovely photos and a treasure of a recipe. It just gets no better than this.

  8. Oh Sarah, what a moving & mouth watering tribute to such fine artists...both the author AND the painter!

    You are Soooooooooooo blessed to have a husband that cooks! I am pea-soup green with envy. Just today I suggested to my DH that he take up the hobby. I got this blank stare, like I'd suggested he run a marathon. LOL Neither one will ever happen!

    This is a superb kick-off to Food For Thought!

  9. And all we had tonight was pizza! However all you green with envy women! Although I do ALL the cooking, Dick never complains and does ALL the clean up and boy! Am I happy with that! This dish however, looks to die for and maybe we can arrange a man swap someday? My kitchen cleaner for your chef?

  10. What a beautiful post. You had me there aboutt he cafe and I cld just imagine van gogh spending his days there. I actually got a lump in my throat reading that. truly.

    yo are one lucky lady to have a husband who cooks exquisitely!! It looks so delicious...very wholesome and unpretentious and those potatoes are a favourite of mine!

    I really enjoyed your review :))im signing up as a follower too!! :))

  11. Oh you have made me want to go there!!!

  12. Oh what a lucky lady you are to have such a wonderful meal cooked for you by your husband! Looks so yummy. That looks like a very interesting book. My knowledge of Van Gogh is quite limited. What a wonderful way to write a book with recipes included. I will write that one down. After seeing Julie and Julia I was more interested in the part that was Julia Childs biography. She had quite the interesting life and I wouldn't mind reading and learning more about it too! Hope you have a great week! And thanks for sharing! Sherri : )

  13. wow! that looks super tastey!!

  14. I am now officially intrigued by this book and also craving a hearty stew. The meal looks fabulous!

  15. This is amazing! What a great story and experience and BOOK! WOW.
    Thank you so much for linking to French Obsession!!!


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