14 Apr 2011

Cuisine Photo Kitsch (Part 2)

Let's carry on our quick round-off of vintage cookery photography, this time with the 1970s and '80s, typified here by two very representative examples - in my eye. As always on La Baguette, you are most welcome to join the debate, and contribute comments, photos and links.

1970s: 'Salade Hong Kong'

Cut-out © 'Modes de Paris' magazine, no date available, but believed to be mid-1970s. Back then, assiettes de charcuterie (cold-cut arrangements) were popular as hors d'oeuvres. Here we have a hint of the exotic with bamboo shoots, Chinese noodles and soy sauce. The taste of the Orient was becoming fashionable in the '70s. Recreating/ adapting a Far-Eastern restaurant dish back home to share with friends, or to impress/ challenge family tradition by breaking away from traditional fayre, was an exciting prospect for the young hostess. In terms of photographic process, colours are noted to be primary, flat and bright.

1980s: 'Soupe à l'Ail'/ 'Civet de Lièvre aux Nouilles'

Taken from La Bonne Cuisine Française by Marie-Claude Bisson (© Solar 1982). Although we have just hit the '80s, the rustic theme still permeates, with pewter, wicker, brown glazed crockery, checkered cloths and roaring fires, yet with this book being an ode to traditional French cuisine, one will explain the other. Pictured here are 'Soupe à l'Ail'(garlic soup, in a setting reminiscent of a Renaissance painting), and a 'Civet de Lièvre aux Nouilles' (hare stew with noodles) straight out of Hell's kitchen...

A quick word about the red and white checkered cloth (as seen also in Part 1). This is one of those endearing themes typically associated with France (be it on French soil or in French restaurants abroad), to the point of having reached stereotypical iconic level like the béret and baguette. Having said that, modern-style cookery books have given up on the use of brightly-coloured table-cloths in favour of the neutrality of a white background or delicate pastel colours, way more flattering to the eye, to the whole ambience and the dish itself!

Here hotpots, stews, game, sausages, offal, stuffing and thick sauces galore: content is more about hearty country stodge than the nouvelle cuisine vibe of the later years of the decade (and generally what we are used to nowadays). Here we have substance over style, but then again this book claims to be a condensate of classicism and simple honest food, according to the foreword.

Photography-wise, lots of shine and saturated blocky colours (ketchup reds and mucky browns mostly), not helped by the subject, the studio setting and use of direct light/ flash. Not an inviting book at first sight for the amateur/ casual/ week-end cooks, but if you go beyond the photographic first impressions and the stuffy content, you should be able to dig up and adapt some of the more interesting and easier recipes, especially egg, potato, pasta and rice dishes and most of the desserts. So ignore the lack of photographic appeal, and have fun!

No doubt La Baguette will have countless opportunities to come back on vintage photography, be it culinary-oriented or not... So stay tuned, and until then promise me to revisit those long-forgotten cookbooks from your mum or your nan. They might look obsolete in every sense of the word but they can still teach us 'youngsters' one thing or two about society, fashion trends, culinary aspirations and... technological progress!

1 comment:

  1. The food styling fashion was definitely different then, although I'm sure the food was delicious just the same. In part that may be because these are French recipes. Some American cookbooks of that era have downright scary stuff in them.