The correspondence that Claude Monet kept for many years with his friends of the time, today known to us thanks to the numerous published collections, and which I read as a teenager with a certain romantic feeling, has forever influenced my way of thinking about colors around me.
I don’t think the color of the atmosphere is something most people wonder about, yet the idea Monet couldn’t get out of his mind – the idea that would then become a real obsession, which he experienced with some kind of manic frustration – was born from a genuine desire to understand. Monet wanted to understand the light, the color of the air, the fleeting and changeable first impression of what is around us, in order to tell it and interpret it in the most honest way possible.One fine day he wrote that he understood, that everything seemed clearer, that finally he would cease to burn out his canvas together with the dry leaves of the garden because disgusted by his own work – “mediocre and by muddy tones” – that frustrated him so much that he felt a somewhat sadistic satisfaction in destroying everything.
He wrote that the tone of the atmosphere was certainly the violet, that the secret was all in that color that eluded him so much. For a short while, he seemed almost a man lifted by a burden that had tortured him so much to make him depressed, until he took back everything he said, finding himself deeply disgusted by painting and burning God only knows how many other masterpieces that today we can only imagine.
The more I read, the more I loved him. The determination and the intellectual honesty with which he pursued his goals seemed to me as noble as his appearance.
Even today, I feel for this man, always portrayed with a thick white beard and elegant light linen suits, a deep admiration – perhaps more for his person even before his work.
Then as now, I often think of him when I make choices about color; may they be related to the field of light in photography, as well as those related to the physical appearance of things.
The color temperature is certainly not something most of people think about, but when it comes to photography, I can assure that the matter is rather relevant.
In these days of Italian summer, where the light is so dazzling that it almost seems to make fun of me as I cannot control it as I would, I think of Monet in all his frustration.
I sit in the garden, in the shade of the vineyard full of still unripe grapes, wishing to see some violet already – the unmistakable sign that most of summer is now gone. But no, this season seems to be shining a green hue, which surrounds me so intensely that it is reflected in the light, bouncing off my skin, giving it a vaguely cadaveric color, and in my eyes too, which usually don’t have anything green. It reverberates everywhere, passing through the windows and laying on things.
In the photos it acts as a filter, some of those cheap-ish Instagram ones.
I don’t like it, I would like to burn everything like Monet, except that in the digital era, there’s really nothing to throw in the flames, except maybe the camera itself. But that is also not an option.
I think about colors. About Monet. About how to overcome summer without wasting this light that I have not yet well understood. I pick up the good old book by Johannes Itten, remembering how in the various art schools I’ve attended it was considered a sort of holy bible on color theory. I remember how once I painted the color circle that takes its inventor’s name, Itten, on a rough cardboard with some awful cheap acrylics.
I find in the pages of the book the obvious answer – to say the least – to a question I did not even know I was looking for. “Magenta is the complementary color of green: the magenta pigment absorbs the green light.”
I think of magenta; it’s not a color that I usually like too much.
I run into the garden to rip the very last red turnips. I invent something to do, any recipe is fine, as long as it gives me a nice magenta color. I want to absorb all this damn green light!
Here, then, as an idea is born, one of mine, where food is always a pretext for something else. I understand that what moves me is almost always a spirit of inquiry, a need to understand things, even the simple ones, like the summer light.
I think back to Monet, again and again, with a sort of illusion of closeness and belonging that makes me say “I understood you, really!”.
Maybe it’s little or maybe even nothing … but when is nothing at least what remains here is always eaten, and it is also good, I assure you.
If you want to try, here is the recipe, which you will also find published in Italian on D, La Repubblica, Saturday 30 June.
- 200 g of red beets (net weight, already cooked)
- 200 g of yellow floury potatoes(net weight, already cooked)
- 3 tbsp of breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp of grated smoked cured ricotta
- A knob of butter
- 1 egg
- 1 pinch of cinnamon
- 1 pinch of salt
- Pepper to taste
- 220 g flour 00
- 80 g semolina flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1 pinch of salt
- a bit of water (just if needed - in accordance with the consistence of your dough)
- 80 g of butter
- A bunch of fresh sage
- 1 tbsp of poppy seeds
- Grated Parmesan, or smoked ricotta cheese to taste
- Start with the filling, which can also be prepared the evening before preparation.
- Boil the beets and potatoes in two different pots. When soft, drain and quickly pass them in a pan over high heat, for a few minutes together with the butter, salt and pepper to flavor them. Leave it to cool.
- Blend beets and potatoes in a mixer to obtain a thick cream. Transfer the cream to a bowl, add the eggs, grated smoked ricotta cheese, a pinch of cinnamon and breadcrumbs. Stir well all together. The filling should not be too soft, if necessary add some breadcrumbs and ricotta to thicken it. Keep aside and proceed with the dough.
- Sift the two flours on a wooden surface, creating a fountain with a hole in the middle. There, break the eggs and add a pinch of salt. With a fork, lightly beat the eggs, gradually incorporating the flour from the edges. When the ingredients begin to be together, work with your hands and add a little cold water if the dough is too dry.
- Knead the dough until you get a smooth, compact and non-sticky ball, then wrap it in the foil and put it to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- After this time, roll the dough with the rolling pin or the pasta machine onto a floured flatbed - better if a wooden one - , and obtain thin strips sufficiently large to get circles with a diameter of at least 6/7 cm, using a round pasta cutter for ravioli.
- You can work the dough a little at a time, to prevent it from drying out, covering the remaining one with the film or a damp cloth.
- Place a small teaspoonful of filling in the center of each pasta disc, then fold them in half pressing all the way around with your fingers to let the air out and let the dough stick. Seal the edge with the back of a fork. Place the ravioli on a lightly floured semolina tray and proceed to finish all the ingredients.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, carefully add the ravioli to the boiling water. Cook for about 5 minutes and drain.
- In a large skillet, quickly stir-fry the sage leafs in a knob of butter, add the ravioli and a spoon of poppy seeds, then gentle toss together for a minute over medium heat.
- Remove from the heat, and serve the ravioli on plates with a generous sprinkle of grated Parmesan or smoked Ricotta cheese… or both 🙂