Film: Design & Architecture

Sugar, Almond Paste, Fruit and Flowers

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Can blown sugar be a lost art? There are certain historical films that no matter how many times I view them, I will always notice something about the past that I hadn’t been aware of before. This happened to me while viewing Vatel. In two scenes, Gérard Depardieu, as François Vatel, creates two sugar arrangements as gifts for Uma Thurman, who plays the love interest of several men (Louis XIV being one of them). These works of art were so mesmerizing that I had to find out more about this process. Maybe I don’t read enough lifestyle magazines to know if this art form is still in existence today. All I had to go on in my search was Tim Roth’s line describing the process as “spun” sugar. But the images that Google returned were the crazy strings of caramelized sugar that’s often seen on fancy deserts at fancy restaurants. After multiple google searches and relying on the resulting images, I found the right term, “blown sugar”. Unfortunately, there’s zero information on its history, but it’s definitely not a lost art and is still taught in culinary schools. To illustrate and share this technique with you, I have captured some stills from the film.

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This fruit bowl had been commissioned by Tim Roth’s character, Marquis de Lauzun, as a gift for Uma, Anne de Montausier. The best way to describe how this work of art was to look is by quoting the script:

Marquis (Tim Roth): I want you to make a masterpiece. Spun sugar, almond paste, fruit and flowers. I’ll leave it to you.

Vatel (Gérard Depardieu): I’m not a pâtissier, Marquis. I will be too busy. Ask someone else.

Marquis: Fruit and flowers in the color of flesh and blood. Flesh and blood. I will send my valet in the morning.

Uma (Anne), knowing that the marquis is just a nasty devious twit, rejects it. And the valet returns it to the Marquis, who then decides to regift it to some anonymous duchess.

The pièce de résistance. Vatel's creation for Anne, in its simpler form, is far more appealing to me. What do you think?
The pièce de résistance. Vatel’s creation for Anne, in its simpler form, is far more appealing to me. What do you think?

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