Tamara de Lempicka’s portraits in the Poirot series

Sometimes I think the art department for Agatha Christie’s Poirot must have been having so much fun… Did you know that multiple paintings in the series were basically tweaked renditions of Tamara de Lempicka’s works?

Lempicka was a celebrated Polish Art Deco artist. Her distinctive style shows influence of Cubism as well as Ingres-style portraiture. I had, some months ago, painted a tiny (reversed) copy of one of her works– a girl with gloves– for the cover of one of my miniature books.

In the Poirot episode One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, the board room of Alistair Blunt shows a portrait of himself and his wife Rebecca, done exactly in the style of Lempicka. This is historically fitting, since Lempicka painted a number of “celebrity” portraits for the wealthy and aristocratic in the ’20s and ’30s.

In fact, that painting above isn’t only in the style of Lempicka– it is basically a conglomeration of different Lempicka paintings: a portrait of Mrs Boucard and one Mr Tadeusz de Lempicki. You can see below how the face of the man has been changed to look like Alistair Blunt (Peter Blythe).   🙂



There is a similarly-styled portrait, a la Lempicka, in the episode The Underdog—  a painting which hides the safe of Sir Reuben Astwell, the murdered man.

Again, it is based almost completely off of a legit Lempicka painting, Dr. Boucard.

The “remake” includes the test tube of liquid, which in Lempicka’s original has (presumably) some medical aspect, but which seems to have been cleverly re-imagined as relating to “Astwell Chemicals.” Like the Alistair Blunt portrait, the face is reconfigured to look like Sir Reuben (Denis Lill).

Interesting, no? 🙂

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Poirot Gourmet: Quiche Lorraine with “Le Sneak Belgique”

We found this local (Winnipeg-based) Belgian-style beer the other day. It’s called Le Sneak Belgique, a witbier made with coriander, orange peel, and black pepper. Did I mention that the can is adorned with a moustache??  🙂

I had to bring it home and feature it in a blog episode of Poirot Gourmet. So I decided to pair it with miniature versions of Quiche Lorraine and a side salad with tomatoes, walnuts, balsamic vinegar and black truffle olive oil.  🙂  Lovely comfort food for autumn!

Two more Picassos in Poirot’s flat

Remember that anachronistic Picasso print from Poirot’s first flat, from 1957? Well, I’ve just noticed that a bit later in the series, it was replaced with a different print. Here’s a shot from The Plymouth Express where you can see it over Hastings’ shoulder. It’s a mother and child painting.

Also, I’ve identified the picture. It is, in fact, another Picasso (Mother and Infant), one from 1922, in the artist’s much earlier neoclassical phase. Kudos to the art department for this fitting remedy.  🙂  The picture is part of the Continental influence of Poirot’s decor as well as blending in nicely with his many Japanese prints, which are similarly heavy on the linear outlining (and also very influential in turn-of-the-last-century European art). Japanese prints can be seen in various places in both of Poirot’s flats.

And if you haven’t noticed already, Poirot has a more cubist-style Picasso print (mixed media) hanging over his mantle. Violin is from around 1912.

UPDATE:

Poirot seems so fond of Picasso that I thought I’d try tracking down that second print that’s behind Poirot’s shoulder in the Plymouth Express shot. Sure enough, that is a sketch called A Thousand Travelling Acrobats— a Picasso drawing from 1905.

Ambigram – Elephants Can Remember

Acrylic on 8″ x 10″ canvas board. I like to do the book titles as “vertical-axis” ambigrams (mirror-reflection style) for two reasons. First, the style better fulfills Poirot’s sense of symmetry than a rotational ambigram would do. Second, I’m thinking of them in terms of a book cover or a fixed display, and it’s sort of handy in that case to get the visual effect without having to physically rotate the thing.

I’m pleased with the legibility of this particular one… and also the elephant.  🙂

Props for an Art Deco / Modernist flat

One of the great things about blogging is that you come into contact with others who share (sometimes unlikely-seeming) obsessions. Over the past two months, I’ve heard from a couple of fellow Poirot fans who are mad about Poirot’s flat and the various props and pieces used therein.

The first fellow, an avid prop collector by the name of David, pointed out something I hadn’t yet realized: there is a Picasso print in Poirot’s first flat called “The Piano (Velasquez)”… and the painting itself was from 1957! An anachronism!  😀

The second gentleman I was chatting with is furnishing an entire flat in Art Deco style, and he sent me some really awesome photos of pieces of furniture he’s found. Some are very like the pieces in the series! Amazing!!!!!!!

Poirot Gourmet, cocktail edition: Elixir de Spa du Chef

I’ve been eager to try out various cocktail recipes with my newly-acquired Elixir de Spa. (For more information about this liqueur from Spa, Belgium, see this previous post.)  This one is called Elixir de Spa du Chef. It’s a nice, summery, champagne-based drink with lime juice, Angostura bitters, and of course Elixir de Spa.  🙂  The recipe can be found here.

My personal word to the wise: don’t leave out the bitters! The champagne and liqueur together is going to be very sweet, and although I tend not to blink at drinking sugar, it’s not everyone’s thing! I don’t often use bitters, but I was happy enough to use them with this drink.

Let’s make the most of our last couple weeks of summer, all! Santé!

Poirot Gourmet, cocktail edition: Elixir de Spa Poire

Things are heating up (or cooling down?) here in the “Poirot Gourmet” corner of the blog, because Kelly has discovered the joys of importing Belgian. Things are about to get that much more authentic, dear readers! Have I got some fun in store for you…  😉

Agatha Christie implies in the book The Big Four that Poirot originates from the Belgian city of Spa, in the eastern province of Liège. The TV series seems to follow this line of thinking as well, particularly in the episode Four and Twenty Blackbirds, where Poirot introduces Hastings to his mother’s Liège-style cooking. I had been poking around a bit for interesting-looking Belgian recipes to share here, but I thought I might as well get more specific. What is gastronomically unique to the area of Liège, I wondered?

Poirot is fond of liqueurs, and lo and behold, I chanced upon one that actually hails from his hometown. By name: Elixir de Spa!

You can read all about this liqueur here, along with recipes for cooking and cocktails. It is made from a wide variety of aromatic plants and herbs, and is apparently renowned for its digestive effects. (That alone sounds like something Poirot would go for, doesn’t it?) Although it is a liqueur, I was somehow expecting something a little more bitter– perhaps the word “elixir’ conjured up purely medicinal associations, or my assumption may have come from the 40% alcohol volume. But no; it is quite sweet, and although I have no idea what’s in it, there is a definite anise or fennel flavor in there, like liquorice. But it isn’t overwhelming; rather, a pleasant and subtle melange of flavors, VERY smooth. It’s a long time since I’ve gotten a buzz from a liqueur, so there you go.

Anyway, I found a cocktail recipe on that page called “Elixir de Spa Poire,” and it seemed very appropriate to feature here. 🙂  The name Poirot can be read as a contraction of “poire” (pear) and the diminutive “-ot,” as in “little pear,” possibly suggesting his shape. Some read the name “Poirot” according to traditional name etymology, presuming someone who grows pears or lives by a pear orchard. At any rate, from what I’ve read, pears actually seem to feature prominently in the food prep of this region… so Elixir de Spa Poire it is!

The recipe is fairly straightforward– the liqueur, pear juice, fresh mint, and orange zest.  I omitted the ice for serving and also used sparkling pear juice (call it a tribute to the famous bubbling waters of Spa). 😉  The result is AMAZING. Next time I will use ice, and possibly drink it for the rest of the summer!

I look forward to seeing what other interesting things can be made with Elixir de Spa. 🙂

Poirot gourmet: French/English fusion edition!

Today’s Poirot gourmet represents a bit of French and English fusion! Inspired by “Four and Twenty Blackbirds” and The Mystery of the Blue Train, I’ve assembled a collection of comestibles which read like a compromise between Poirot and his dinner friend, Mr Bonnington.  🙂  Both book excerpts deal with a fillet of sole.

A blog called Reading Feeding, which deals with food and books, pointed out this passage from The Mystery of the Blue Train between Poirot and his valet, George.

‘The brown lounge suit, sir? The wind is somewhat chilly today.’

‘There is a grease spot on the waistcoat,’ objected Poirot. ‘A morceau of Filet de sole à la Jeanette alighted there when I was lunching at the Ritz last Tuesday.’

‘There is no spot there now, sir,’ said George reproachfully. ‘I have removed it.’

Très bien!‘ said Poirot. ‘I am pleased with you, Georges.’

‘Thank you, sir.’


Filet de sole à la Jeanette
also appears as a dish in the Tommy and Tuppence novel The Secret Adversary. The speculation was: is this a real dish, or a Christie invention? One anonymous commenter noted:

“Actually a real dish made with a tarragon sauce. Jeanette Bertrandy – La bonne cuisine Provençal.”

This seems to coincide with a dish called Fillet of Sole with Tarragon Sauce
(Filets de Sole Sauce Estragon). A note posted with the recipe: “Tarragon, an herb member of the wormwood family, is a popular herb in Provence and is used often with fish, chicken or eggs. This recipe is adapted from the delightful cookbook of Bernard Loubat and Jeanette Bertrandy, La bonne cuisine Provençal.”

I took their word for it and tried my hand at filets de sole sauce estragon. If this is indeed the preparation mentioned by Poirot to his valet George, there would be ample opportunity for a pretty impressive grease spot to manifest itself on his waistcoat. Butter, olive oil, and more butter contribute to this rich and flavorful dish.

Poirot’s friend, Mr Bonnington, had very different ideas on how to go about fillet of sole! From “Four and Twenty Blackbirds”:

‘Mess!’ said Mr Bonnington. ‘That’s what’s the matter with the world nowadays. Too much mess. And too much fine language. The fine language helps to conceal the mess. Like a highly-flavoured sauce concealing the fact that the fish underneath it is none of the best! Give me an honest fillet of sole and no messy sauce over it.’

It was given him at that moment by Molly and he grunted approval.

To compensate for the “French kickshaws” he disliked, I thought I’d throw in some nice Stilton on (square) English cream crackers.

As the story goes…

‘Good evening, sir,’ she said, as the two men took their seats at a corner table. ‘You’re in luck today– turkey stuffed with chestnuts– that’s your favourite, isn’t it? And ever such a nice Stilton we’ve got! Will you have soup first or fish?’

Mr Bonnington deliberated the point. He said to Poirot warningly as the latter studied the menu:

‘None of your French kickshaws now. Good well-cooked English food.’

To round it off properly– a couple of blackberry and apple tartlets! I made these with a bottom layer of crushed blackberries, followed by apple slices, whipped cream, and a blackberry to top them off.

‘Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie! Or blackberries if you prefer to be literal! …He had been eating blackberries again, by the way. A greedy fellow– cared a lot about his food. Eh bein, greed will hang him all right unless I am very much mistaken.’

A waitress brought them two portions of blackberry and apple tart.

‘Take it away,’ said Mr Bonnington. ‘One can’t be too careful. Bring me a small helping of sago pudding.’

Lastly, some crème de menthe for a digestif, and to keep things from being too English!  😀