Pears as Art

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Dessert inspiration stems from a wide variety of sources: a good-looking bunch of grapes at the farm stand, the aroma of a freshly-picked bushel of apples, or those few extra splashes of champagne you just can't bear to give up. For me, sweet revelations frequently flow from my non-culinary love, art history.

In the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, resides my newest dessert inspiration. The pears in Gustave Caillebotte's oil painting Fruit Displayed on a Stand (1881-82) are just the right shade of ripe, jumbled together amid thick brushstrokes and equally tempting tomatoes, oranges, and apples. My obsession is well timed, as just-picked pears are flooding fruit stands right now, plump and juicy and begging for attention in the kitchen. Perhaps something as simple as stuffed pears with bitter creme anglaise, or a more involved recipe like this torta di pere (a bittersweet chocolate and pear cake), will come out as masterpieces, honoring this simple but utterly beautiful fruit—and the artwork that inspired me to bake with them.