A Painter in the Kitchen

by Jole Bortoli

The cooking recipes that I published in the Spring edition of Art to Heart’s newsletter were accompanied by the reproduction of a painting ‘Cook with Food’ by  Frans Snyders, a Flemish painter unknown to me. Wanting to find out more, I googled him.

Cook with Food by F. Snyders

I discovered that Frans (1579–1657) was born and died in Antwerp, that he studied art under Pieter Brueghel the Young, that he excelled as a painter of still life, transformed it into a lively scene and produced minutely observed, dramatic hunting scenes’.

I am in the process of painting complex still lifes myself at the moment, and so I was very impressed by his skill. He also made numerous paintings of kitchen interiors in which he depicts cooks in various poses while preparing food and quartering game and fish. The rich compositions, the details and the  accuracy of the execution are so vivid as to be almost gruesome and I imagine that it would make a vegetarian run for miles!

The Fishmonger by F. Snyders

The Pantry by F. Snyders

The Butcher by F. Snyders

I wondered if Snyders spent a lot of time in people’s kitchens, if he asked his neighbours to pose for him  and for how long, I wonder. Then I found out that his parents kept an inn well-known for good food, which many artists frequented. It may be that this was the place where he met Rubens, who so much admired his skill at still life painting that he frequently employed Snyder to paint animals and fruit in his own pictures (I didn’t know you were allowed to do that).

I bet, that while Frans was painting in Rubens’ pictures, the Master himself was filling up his belly in Frans’ Inn!

Still Life by F. Snyders

Here are the Spring recipes:


Serves 6

2.25kg (4-5 lb) boned loin of young pork, rind and most of the fat removed

sea salt and ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

50g (2 oz) butter

5 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

a handful of fresh sage leaves

1.5 litres (2.1/2 pints) milk

pared rind of 2 lemons, pith removed

Generously season the pork on all sides. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan just large enough to hold the pork. Brown the meat on all sides, then remove. Pour away the fat.

Melt the butter in the pan, add the garlic with the sage leaves and, before the garlic begins to colour, return the pork to the pan. Add enough hot milk to come three-quarters of the way up to the pork. Bring to the boil, add the lemon rind and reduce the heat. Place the lid on the pan, slightly askew, and very slowly simmer for about 1.1/2 hours. Resist the temptation to disturb the meat.

The curdle that results from the slow cooking together of lemon and milk makes a delicious sauce. Carefully move the meat, slice quickly and spoon over the sauce.


Serves 6

10 Florence fennel bulbs, trimmed

sea salt and ground pepper

300ml (10 fl oz) double cream

50 gr (2 oz) freshly grated Parmesan

2 garlic gloves, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F / Gas 6.

Cut the fennel bulbs into six lenghtways so that the individual pieces are held together by the central core. Blanch then drain well.

Toss the fennel in a mixture of the cream, half the Parmesan and the garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Put in a shallow baking dish, scatter the remaining Parmesan on top, cover with foil, and place in the preheated oven. After 20 minutes, remove the foil, then put the dish back into the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Enjoy the meal and have a bunch of grapes for dessert.

Still Life by F. Snyders