Still Life Masters


This January it was my turn to host a luncheon for my Gourmet Cooking Group.  My cooking team decided we wanted the menu to feature citrus, which is in peak ripeness this time of year.  With citrus in mind, we decided the theme of our luncheon would be Still Life Masters.  This theme was an exciting undertaking for me because I have always loved the great masters of this genre; such as Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Van Dyck.  Beautiful lemons seemed to always find there way into their paintings!























The genre of Still Life painting originated from the Dutch Golden Age of painting, a period in Dutch art history spanning the 17thcentury. While studying art history in college, I fell in love with these beautiful paintings that celebrate everyday life with simple food, domestic items, and frequently with common happy people.  The compositions are quiet and seem basic – but the compositions are far from basic, and are as sophisticated as any formal portrait.  What I loved about the genre was the realistic approach to the painting of the food.  While studying a still life painting I can feel myself wanting to pluck a grape right out of the canvas and pop it into my mouth!  I can taste the delicious juice!























The challenge I face as a food photographer is quite similar – composition, quality of ingredients, color, scale, texture, and styling.  The approach to the photography must make the food look delicious.  It must make the viewer hungry.  The image must visually seduce the viewer.























Our cooking team had a great time conceptualizing the menu and creating the Still Life tablescape.  We knew that most Dutch Masters painted their still life paintings with a dark brown background, such as a wood table and added cloth.  So we chose a dark brown tablecloth to start our canvas.  The elements of still life compositions consist of fruit and/or vegetables, cheese, wine, flowers, porcelain plates (usually Delft – white and blue), knives, forks, small deceased animals that are hunted, such as hare, pheasant, and duck, as well as fish.  Pewter and silver were the favored metal for tableware in the 1600s.























Crudite with Chile-Lime Salt























Coconut-Lime Marinaded Grilled Shrimp

All of the items used on our tablescape were owned by the cooking team or borrowed.  All the citrus fruit was picked from our own trees, or neighbors’, friends’, or family. Instead of using deceased animals (yikes!), we used deer sheds – antlers – to bring to the composition the crude and rustic feel against the elegance of porcelain and silver.  And of course, we had candles.  Fire, as old as time itself, gathering us around hearth and home.























Avgolemono Soup – Classic Greek Lemon Soup























Roasted Chicken with Citrus Sauce with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins

Accompanied by Parsley Salad dressed in Lemon Vinaigrette and Parmesan, and Wild Rice with Lemon Zest

The use of a variety of grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, and kumquats was a feast for the eyes!  The colors just popped off the dark rich brown tablecloth, which contrasted against the blue and white dishes, silver and pewter, and basketry.  Just stunning.  It was a fun experience to finally create a still life!























Preserved Kumquats in a Spiced Syrup with Cloves, Cinnamon, and Star Anise over Vanilla Ice Cream

Accompanied with a Lemon and Anise Biscotti

The luncheon was a beautiful and delicious success for 15 appreciative ladies.  All the recipes were duplicated for our guests and a few are provided below for you.


Happy New Year everyone!


Coconut-Lime Marinated Grilled Shrimp

6 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
5 teaspoons fish sauce
1 Tablespoon finely grated shallot
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 dozen large raw shrimp

In a glass bowl, whisk coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, shallot, and brown sugar in a small bowl until smooth.  Gradually add oil, whisking constantly until emulsified.  Add peeled shrimp to marinade and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.  Turn on grill to medium-high and when it is hot remove the shrimp and place on the grill.  Watch the shrimp closely – shrimp cook fast.  When the shrimp begin to turn orange and receive a charr from the flame, turn over the shrimp to grill the other side.  Keep an eye on the center of the shrimp – when the translucence disappears the shrimp is done cooking.  Remove from head and keep warm until all the shrimp are done cooking.  Serve immediately.

Crudites With Chile-Lime Salt

1 lime
2 Tablespoons flaky sea salt
1/2 Teaspoon ancho chili powder
2 oranges, sliced into 1/4″ rounds, rounds, halved
5 mini seedless cucumbers, cut into 1/2″ spears
1 bunch radishes, stems removed and each cut in half
1 large jicama, peeled, cut into 1/4″ thick slices, each slice cut into 4 triangle pieces

Finely grate lime zest into a small bowl.  Stir in salt and chili powder.  Cut zested lime into four wedges.  Arrange crudités on a platter.  Squeeze lime juice over the vegetables and fruit, then sprinkle with some of the salt mixture. Place the rest of the salt in a small bowl on the platter with the vegetables and fruit.  Serve.







  1. Teresa Bredberg says:

    Beautiful work T! Great way to challenge yourself and get those creative juices flowing again. Looks like an interesting, fun and tasty day!

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