Posted Fri, 01/11/13
Larkin family chef Claude Mondoux is one of my favorite characters in the Collective Obsessions Saga. Although he only appears in the first two novels - Passion Forsaken and Quixotic Crossings - his exuberance for life, fluid intuition and deeply-felt compassion leave a lasting impression.
He was born the only son of Ysabel Amelot Mondoux in Chamonix, France on February 10, 1845. Ysabel was a striking, dark-haired beauty in her day. She was an actress briefly, before giving birth to Claude. Her love affair with an affluent Chamonix businessman named François Durand resulted in Claude's arrival, and afterward she gave up acting to work as a maid. Claude never met his father, although he assumed the man must have been blond and tall, two characteristics Ysabel could not have given him.
Claude was an unusual and striking figure of a man. Tall and slender, he had blond hair and blue eyes, with a stylish gold earring stud in his left earlobe. He was energetic, forthright, effervescent, naturally friendly and slightly effeminate, but not the least bit subservient.
His sexuality remained a deliberate mystery throughout his tenure in my imagination.
Claude worked as a chef at the Auberge du Bois Café & Chateau in France before coming to Larkin City in 1875 after the death of his mother. John Larkin found him at the Amber Whale Tavern, and hired him on the spot. John nicknamed Claude "my frog" as the years progressed. Claude had his own suite of rooms inside the Larkin mansion, located just off the massive kitchen. He became a close and dear friend to Colm Sullivan, the two of them sharing many secrets during their lifetimes.
I used the last name of "Mondoux" for Claude in tribute to my maternal grandmother Irene Mondoux, who was French-Canadian.
Claude Mondoux was famous for his "Zucchini Loaf" in Passion Forsaken and thereafter:
- 3 C flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 3 tsp. cinnamon
- 3 eggs
- 1 C vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 C sugar
- 3 tsp. vanilla
- 2 C zucchini, grated
- 1 C walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 325-degrees F. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon in a bowl. Beat the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar in another bowl. Add dry ingredients to the moist ingredients, and mix well. Stir in the grated zucchini and nuts. Pour the batter into prepared pans. Bake for forty to sixty minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for twenty minutes. Remove bread from pan, and allow to cool before slicing.
When Claude died in 1936, he was buried in the Larkin Family Cemetery. He was the only "servant" to be so honored.
Note: "Zucchini Loaf" recipe also appears in the Larkin Community Cookbook. The image of Claude Mondoux is a pastel-illustrated variation of the late actor Robert Addie.