Now that the holidays are behind us, it seems like everyone is starting 2014 off on a healthy note. And why should I be any different? Throughout a stressful end of the year, I can readily admit to helping myself to a few too many sweets, and am now trying my best to even my diet out a little bit. Even a sweets blogger needs a little balance sometime! And what better way to do that than with a rich, decadent chocolate mousse? Are you confused? Wasn’t I just talking about eating a bit healthier? Don’t worry—this dessert (or snack!) definitely fits the bill, without sacrificing any flavor. The secret here is one truly multi-tasking avocado, which manages to keep this mousse both heart-healthy and super creamy.
Avocados have an interesting rap. Although it is true that they are high in fat, I prefer to think about them as an extremely nutrient dense alternative to butter. Avocados are monounsaturated fats, and high in vitamins C and K, folate and fiber. However, like everything, specifically fats, they should be eaten in moderation, like as an end of day treat in this tasty mousse. While my health was the driving motivation behind whipping up this tasty treat, I am not the only one who has found inspiration for my craft in those around me. Artists have long been creatively influenced by others, a phenomenon that can be traced back to the nine muses in Greek mythology. These nine daughters of Zeus are commonly known as the goddesses of numerous poetries, history, music, tragedy, comedy, dancing and astronomy; they evolved into the personification of the arts and learning, eventually building the foundations for museums. Ancient Greek poets repeatedly asked upon the muses for inspiration, and this tradition was certainly embraced by modern artists, who also represented the muses in their work.
Hendrick van Balen the Elder’s painting, Minerva and the Muses shows Minerva (Athena, Goddess of War, Patron of Liberal Arts), in the center right, surrounded by the muses and hearing their songs. This popular scene defines Athena as a true patron of learning and arts. Similarly, Nicolas Poussin portrayed the muses with Apollo (Sun God and God of Truth, Music and Prophecy), representing him as their teacher.
As the years have progressed, artists have worked with physical muses, who acted as both inspiration and patrons. In the early twentieth century, sisters Claribel and Etta Cone began collecting art, and came to know Henri Matisse. Throughout their friendship, the Cone sisters purchased works from Matisse and his contemporaries, and in return, Matisse produced numerous works in their likenesses. Running through mid-February, Duke’s Nasher Museum is showcasing the Cone sisters’ collection in their show, “Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore.”
Another more literal personification of muses in modern art is photographer Man Ray’s relationship with Kiki de Montparnasse, a French nightclub singer and model, who accompanied him throughout the 1920s. She served as his model in many of his works, perhaps most well known, Le violon d’Ingres, where Kiki, wearing a turban, emulates both Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ The Valpinçon Bather (1808) and a musical instrument. Years later, Jeff Koons would take the muse idea to the next level with his early 1990s Made in Heaven series, an explicit series of photographs, sculptures and paintings portraying Koons and his then-wife, pornstar and later politician Ilona Staller in graphic sexual positions.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the creative influence, muses are a large part of our artistic culture, and should therefore probably be a large part in our diet. Whether you are on the healthier eating train or not, I hope you give this one a try—your taste buds (and healthy heart) will thank you!
Chocolate Avocado Mousse
1 ripe avocado
2 pitted dates
¼ cup carob powder
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon almond or peanut butter
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons milk
toasted shredded coconut, chopped nuts, sprinkles, etc. as toppings
I used this recipe as an excuse to try out my new toy, my 11-cup food processor, but a blender would work just as well. In a blender of food processor, blend all ingredients together, excluding the toppings. Spoon into two small bowls, and let chill for an hour. After the mousse has set, top with whatever you like, and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Clean, serves 2
Featured art: Hendrick van Balen the Elder, Minerva and the Muses, circa 1620s, oil on panel
Nicolas Poussin, Apollo and the Muses, circa 1630s, oil on panel
Man Ray, Le violon d’Ingres,1924