Friday, October 11, 2013

Creative Cooking

I can easily spend hours looking through decades-old issues of Gourmet. I don't necessarily look through them searching for recipes, although many of them do seem quite appetizing. Rather, I enjoy looking at the magazine's photos. Whoever styled those old food photos, which are so staged-looking and yet so charming, must have had one heck of a good time doing so.  I know that I would have.

Take, for example, that photo seen above.  When I first glanced at it, I thought that whatever creamy food was nestled within that puffed pastry must be something good.  Well, it's not.  Or at least, I don't find Brains to be something good.  But the styling of that photo certainly made what seems to me a vile dish look downright delicious.

Then there's the Swordfish Mirabeau.  Yes, the plated dish looks a little too man-handled, but those strips of anchovies and sliced olives do create an interesting-looking pattern.  And check out the photos of Boeuf à la Mode en Gelée and Leg of Lamb in Aspic.  A little too precious?  Perhaps.  But both dishes, especially the lamb in aspic with that herb and vegetable garnish, took skill and artistry.

Now, I doubt that many of us are going to start decorating our food with floral-motif garnishes, strips of anchovies and sliced olives, and peas in aspic, but I do think that these old Gourmet photos are great examples of how design can enhance food immeasurably.



  1. Jennifer,
    Thank you for posting these beautiful pictures. When my husband and I got married in 1971, one of our gifts was a two volume set of cookbooks entitled "The Gourmet Cookbook, Volume I and Volume II. I loved them and made many dishes choosing which recipe to make based on the enticing looking photographs.

  2. The beautiful photography almost makes most of these somewhat appetizing ;-)

  3. I remember almost ALL of theses photos! Clearly, I'm dating myself! By the way - creamed sweetbreads and brains are FABULOUS! Even my children liked them when I used to fix them - not in such a gorgeous piece of pastry but served over toasted english muffins.

  4. Yummy or not? that is the question + beautifully styled.

  5. With the exception of crudités with aoli sauce on the side, the whole parade of dishes is a Period Piece of
    the first order! And as such, a valuable sort of history lesson. It's hard to believe that anyone would want to
    encase things as rich as sweetbreads and brains in a puff pastry envelope! Not that I am opposed to brains-
    which can (or used to be prior to Mad Cow concerns) be delicious when poached and served with brown butter
    and capers--as Le Veau d'Or used to do back in the day.

  6. Oh my, Fanny Cradock!!

  7. I had to Google Fanny Cradock. My gosh, she must have been something else!

  8. Gorgeous and yummy. Pure 50's and 60's. Aspic!!!

  9. Anonymous11:56 AM

    Jennifer, what a lovely post. You must have known most of us are patsies for puff pastry with or without custard. This is off topic, but I have intended asking if you knew the late James Essary, an Atlanta designer, and whether or not you have ever featured him in one of your post. Several years ago, I ran across a feature in Atlanta Homes magazine of his renovation on a home in Buckhead which was quite interesting.

    1. Anon, Yes, I think many of us do like a puff pastry! I remember that article on James Essary's home, and it was really wonderful. His house was beautifully decorated and filled with antiques and treasures, as I recall. I have never featured his work on my blog, but your comment might just prompt me to do so. Thank you!


  10. Look delicious
    Is that all French quisine ?