03 September 2010

Famous Food Friday -- Helena Rubinstein

Graham Sutherland (1903-1980)
Helena Rubinstein in red brocade Balenciaga, 1957

There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.
Helena Rubinstein

Today's Famous Food Friday is Helena Rubinstein. In mid August, The Peak of Chic brought back one of my favorite features on her blog -- "What's In Their Library." Fittingly, The Peak of Chic changed it up a bit and produced "What's In My Library -- Jennifer Boles." One of the books from her own library was Helena Rubinstein's cookbook, Food For Beauty and since it is in our library, too, we thought it would make a great Famous Food Friday.

Marie Laurencin (1885 -1956)
Helena Rubinstein wearing a yellow shawl, 1934

Helena Rubinstein was the eldest of eight daughters of a Polish merchant. In 1890 she headed off to Australia giving up her study of medicine to find a husband. What she found was the appalling skin of Australian women. Rubinstein began selling a cream of almonds and tree bark to help with dry, flaky skin. Within three years her creams had earned her $100,000 and she headed to Europe. In 1914 she moved on to New York. She wrote of her first impressions of American women:
"It was a cold day,and all the American women had purple noses and grey lips, and their faces were chalk white from terrible powder. I recognized that the U.S. could be my life's work."

In 1938 as a supplement to her cosmetics empire, Rubinstein wrote a cookbook based on the Bircher-Benner diet in Zurich, Switzerland. Maximilian Bircher-Benner, much like John Kellogg, set out to changed the 19th century diets. He chose fruit, vegetables and nuts over meats and breads. His ideas combined controlled nutrition with spartan physical discipline. His most famous idea was muesli.

Food for Beauty is filled with beautiful sounding recipes. One would be hard pressed to figure out what the ingredients are but who wouldn't want to partake in Lotus in Sunlight,Citrus Sunwheel, Tropical Radiance, Imperial Garden, or Sun Shaft?

Here is her recipe for a light soup.

Essence of Tomato

2 lbs. ripe tomatoes
1 bunch green celery tops
2 leeks (entire)
1 small potato
6 outside lettuce leaves
1 cup empty pea pods
2 quarts cold water

Wash vegetables thoroughly but do not peel them. Chop coarsely. Place in a large enamel, copper or glass kettle. Cover with cold water. cover kettle. simmer for 2 hours. Then mash through a fine sieve. Serve hot in bouillon cups.

Now don't be lazy, whip up a batch of Essence of Tomato and settle in for your own Day of Beauty.

Read it again at Cookbook of the Day.


  1. The recipes do sound heavenly...and light too! I admit that certain recipes do make me chuckle a bit!

  2. Great post. For the look of her, I doubt Madam Rubenstein remained steadfast in a diet of only nuts, vegetables, and fruit in the latter part of her days. That being said, this is a charming recipe and, with minor modification, could easily be produced in today's more modern kitchen.


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