After recently reading a disappointing book that was based on cooking, I was somewhat reluctant to pick up Cooking for Picasso, a novel by Camille Aubray. Still, it came highly recommended by a reliable source, so I gave it a try.
I will admit that for whatever reason, it was a slow start for me. But once I became connected to one of the main characters – Odine – it was a novel I couldn’t put down.
I say “one” of the main characters, because Cooking for Picasso has that now oh-so-familiar novel style of having a main character who lives in contemporary time and a second main character who is connected to the first, but of an earlier era. In this case, the contemporary character is Celine, a Hollywood makeup artist who is somewhat discontent with her life. She learns from her mother that her grandmother Odine had once cooked for Pablo Picasso in the Cote d’ Azur village in France in which she lived. Her mother encourages Celine to travel to the little village and learn more about her grandmother.
It is 1936 and Odine was a 17-year-old village girl who worked with her parents in their restaurant. She is given the assignment of preparing and delivering lunch to the great artist Picasso, who is secretly living in the village to paint and rest. Though she is charged with discretion and privacy, Odine comes to know Picasso initially because he is so impressed with her simple, yet delicious, rustic cuisine. Eventually they develop a relationship, and Odine learns about art and food and life itself.
Years later, as Celine begins to learn the truth about her grandmother, she learns about art and food and life as well.
I must admit that this reader learned a lot as well, mostly because every time the author would talk about a painting, I would quickly look it up to see it for myself. And her descriptions of the delicious meals Odine would prepare literally made my mouth water.
I understand Cooking for Picasso is a novel, but it also painted a picture (did you see how I did that?) of life in France during largely difficult times, and how some survived.
It was a wonderful novel. And now I want to eat French food.