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Art and cookbooks in Australia
chapterposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Jillian AdamsJillian Adams
Prior to the 1950s cookbooks were very standard in their presentation. They included recipes and sometimes a stylised drawing or picture and were often a platform for advertising grocery items, services and cooking ranges. As women were encouraged back into their kitchens in early 1950s photography was increasingly used in cookbooks as a way of providing a comprehensive cooking guide and illustrating step-by-step instructions for novice cooks. ‘The busy housewife’, explains The Australian Women’s Weekly Picture Cookery published in the 1950s, ‘… can be encouraged to experiment with new ideas and methods on the certainty that they can easily be carried out, and the results will be a well cooked dish that her family will enjoy. Its step-by-step instructions provide visual cookery demonstrations … .The pictures (especially those in colour) will have an instant appeal, and the simplicity of the teaching instructions will encourage young people to persevere in this vital art of cooking’ (The Australian Women’s Weekly Picture Cookery p. 6). In April 1952 the first edition of Oh! For a French Wife, with cooking by Ted Moloney and Deke Coleman and drawings by George Molnar was published by Ure Smith in Sydney. This cheeky culinary romp went to seven impressions in its first edition. A second edition was published in 1964 then reprinted in 1965. A paperback edition was published in 1968. To what does this book owe its popularity? Not only was this book illustrated with cartoons by famous political satirist George Molnar; its voice was distinctively artistic. The writing was witty, sophisticated and titillating. Cooking instructions, were simple, clearly explained—sometimes scientifically—and included sumptuous descriptions of the cooked dish. This paper explores how art and instruction were combined in the cookbooks of the 1950s: Art in the form of photography, advertisements, illustrations and a new writing genre used in Oh! For a French Wife.