Cooking for Picasso: A Book Review

If you are a Francophile and food and art lover, you will adore Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray.



I received a free audio book from Blogging for Books for this review.  All opinions, exclamations, gushings and rants are my own.

Let me just say that I didn’t realize I would receive an audio book and was a bit disappointed when it came in the mail.   My mood soon changed.  Since it was the holiday season and I had no time to read, I popped the first CD in the car and I was soon hooked.  (This unabridged version is 13 1/2 hours long.)  The book is narrated by Mozhan Marno, an actress whom I was familiar with from The Blacklist and House of Cards.   Her voice is so melodic that I was wishing my drive to work every morning would go on and on.

Aubray’s tale is told from two points of view and covers three generations of women:

  1. Ondine,  first portrayed as a young woman whom we follow into her sixties.
  2. Julie, Ondine’s daughter.
  3. Celine, Julie’s daughter, a thirty-something Hollywood make-up artist.

The flashbacks of Grandmother Ondine’s tale are told in third-person.   Celine tells her story in first-person.   The action of the novel swaps back and forth between Celine’s modern world (set in New York, Nevada, and France) with Ondine’s tale of the mid-thirties in the quaint village of Juan-les-Pins.

Where does Picasso figure into this tale?  The young Ondine cooked for Picasso when he spent time on the Riviera.   She starts out as a personal chef but is soon posing for Picasso.

Many years later, Ondine’s granddaughter, Celine,  treks to the same French town to seek the truth about her grandmother’s connection with Picasso.  She is also there to hopefully find a better life for her mother, Julie.  Celine finds herself in an upscale cooking class (accompanied by her Aunt Matilda) taught by a Gordon Ramsey-like chef.

There are lots of French delicacies and good hearty peasant food in the novel, but it was hard for me to keep up with all the food as I was driving and listening.  Here are a few of the menus that were described in the novel:

Picasso’s First Lunch as Delivered by Ondine
Pissaladiere (onion and olive tart)
“One perfect salad”
House white wine

Meal for Cocteau, Picasso, and Matisse
Crostata di Ricotta (Custard Pie in Crust)

Lei Tretze Dessèrts
When Celine returns to Paris for Christmas early in the novel, she mentions lei tretze dessèrts, a Provençal tradition of no less than thirteen desserts to end a Christmas feast.   The thirteen desserts represent Jesus and the twelve apostles and are normally made up of dried fruit and nuts, fresh fruits, and sweets like pompe a l’huile, Buche de Noel, and Croquenmbouche.  Celine marvels at her mother’s care in making all of these delicacies.


Honestly, as the intrigue and drama (and heartache) escalated in the novel, I found myself forgetting to notice the food as I was swept away by the story.  (This tale is vast and encompasses 1936-2016 and settings of France, Monaco, Las Vegas, New York City, and New Rochelle.)

If you have a long drive ahead of you pick up this audio book.  If you have a few days to spend on the French Riviera, you might also want to pick up the novel and become entranced with the lives of Ondine, Julie and Celine.



For my other Blogging for Books reviews, click here.

I usually incorporate a recipe into my Blogging for Books posts but with our recent foray into healthy eating, I decided to just include links to the French dishes mentioned in the book.

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